Q: What is the intent of the “Second Pair of Eyes” practice at the USPTO and how does it help the patent process?
The “Second Pair of Eyes” practice is to ensure the quality and consistency of the final product – namely, the allowed applications. Initially, the Second Pair of Eyes review was implemented in the business methods area several years ago to ensure consistency in an emerging area of technology.
The “Second Pair of Eyes” enhanced review was put into practice in all technological areas in May 2005. One of the main reasons for this approach was the fact our allowance error rate in FY2004 was 5.3 percent. The Second Pair of Eyes lowered the allowance error rate to 4.6 percent in 2005, and it continued to decline for the next three fiscal years. Enhanced reviews like this are very resource intensive and therefore not realistically sustainable over a long period.
Currently, there are no plans to change the Second Pair of Eyes review process. Under this review method, the previously expansive approach is becoming much more focused. Various quality indicators (for example, the number of second plus non-final actions in an application) define areas that may need more targeted reviews and focus resources on those areas to train for improvement.
Enhanced reviews like the Second Pair of Eyes help the overall patent process by concentrating on the quality of the final decision and final product within patent prosecution. In addition, these reviews benefit specific areas of interest, including emerging technologies, by increasing awareness of and confidence in decisions reached in these technology areas. Further, observations or trends discovered in such end-process reviews like the Second Pair of Eyes serve as useful feedback for developing training methods and improving the early stages of the patent process.