In a long overdue status update, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) yesterday announced appointment and posting orders for 94 successful candidates who have qualified as Patents and Designs Examiners. You can read the notifications here and here. (The Controller General's public notice is, funnily enough, dated 27 January 2011 - presumably that is a mistake. They've been asked to join the Office on or before 23rd January, 2012, when they will be deputed for a three-month residential training programme at National Institute for Intellectual Property Management (NIIPM), Nagpur. (Image from here)
ADDED LATER: As Sunit informs us in the comments section, around 250 examiners in fact cleared the exam and viva conducted earlier by the DIPP, results of which were announced in June 2011, which you can access here. The remaining 150-odd examiners are awaiting procedural clearances, subsequent to which they too will add to the HR strength.
The timing of this notice appears to be very interesting, and dare I say, reactive? You may recall two sets of incisive posts on this blog on the state of affairs in the Patents and Trademarks sections at the IPO.
The first set of posts, which you can read here and here, discusses the IPO's decision to outsource prior art searches for patent applications to a third-party organisation (which is also the subject of debate in DIPP's recent discussion paper, blogged on here, here and here). This outsourcing decision is directly correlated to the staff strength on the patents side. In October this year, the IPO had also issued clarifications on the role of a patent examiner, which was blogged on here.
The second post, which you can read here, was based on responses to a series of RTI applications on the sanctioned strength of the Trademarks Registry and the number of vacant posts. An article in Mint today, which cites this post, and highlights the IPO's problems, speculates that the Office is "sinking under the weight of its own paperwork and lacking the workforce to lighten the load".
Vacancy for Sr Jt Registrars announced
Simultaneously, the Office has also opened up applications for the posts of two Senior Joint Registrars of Trade Marks and Geographical Indications (which you can read here). The Senior Joint Registrar is the seniormost technical officer under the TM and GI Acts. The previous blogpost pointed out that the sanctioned strength for this post was two, and at the time, only one was occupied. That situation has since changed, with Mr V Ravi's retirement last month.
More examiners does not necessarily mean better examination?
What do these notifications mean for the day-to-day workings of the IPO? With a sudden influx of examiners across disciplines (biochem, biotech, electrical, electronics, computer science, mechanical, and even solo appointments like textile engineering and polymer technology), will the workload of the IPO reduce? Very likely, at least in terms of the number of applications that an examiner has to see every day.
However, I am not sure these appointments will necessarily affect the quality of the examination process. That is contingent on something else entirely, i.e., the quality of training at NIIPM (since many of these appointees may not be familiar with patent examination). While everyone I meet (be it lawyers, prosecutors/agents, applicants) complains that the quality of examination at the IPO is poor, I am not sure if they are directing their complaints to the root of the problem, i.e., the training of examiners. Perhaps we need to discuss this more on the blog.
In the absence of ever having been to Nagpur, let alone attending a training course there, I don't think I have any business to comment on this here. But your opinions are welcome - especially from those of you have had an opportunity to attend the courses. Is there room for improvement there? What kinds of changes do you think are needed in the training process, especially in order to improve the quality of examination at the IPO?