The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has proposed new rules it says will improve patent quality, reduce pending applications, and help examiners.
The Patent Office announced Friday that the changes will focus the examination process on claims that contain more than one independent and distinct invention.
"We believe such a rule change will lead to a more focused examination process that will effectively promote innovation," Commissioner for Patents John Doll said in a statement.
The proposed rules would change the current practice of listing multiple inventions in a single claim. So-called "multiinvention alternative" claims are extremely common in the pharmaceutical, chemical, and biotechnology industry, according to the Patent Office.
The new rules would require applicants to identify, with more specificity, the claimed invention to be examined. The office said that will promote better quality examinations.
The rules announced Friday are separate from recent final rules regarding claims and continuations. The claim and continuation rules are expected to be published in the Federal Register later this month. The proposed rules for examinations, announced Friday, are available in the Federal Register now (pdf).
The new rules are part of an ongoing federal effort to ensure patent quality, improve the examination process, and reduce the number of patents pending. Proposed patent changes have produced much debate, but people on all sides agree that examiners are overwhelmed by the sheer number of applications they receive.
The Patent Office will accept comments on the proposed rules, as well as further suggestions for changes to improve the examination of multi-invention alternative claims, until Oct. 9. The office doesn't plan to hold a hearing on the issue.