CALL US: 206.533.3854
CALL US  206.533.3854
AEON Law logo full color transparent

Commissioner for Patents

New commissioner
Oversaw reform efforts
At Patent Office

Margaret (Peggy) Focarino, 58, the new Commissioner for Patents at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) oversaw a variety of reforms while she served as Deputy Commissioner under former USPTO Director David Kappos.

In 2009, when Kappos became director and Focarino became Deputy Commissioner, the USPTO’s process for reviewing patents hadn’t changed in three decades. The office’s backlog was huge and growing.

Working with the patent examiners’ union, Focarino gave examiners more time and flexibility to handle patent applications, and introduced rewards for productivity. She also oversaw increased hiring of examiners and improved training and leadership opportunities.

The result was a reduction in the backlog of patents from 750,000 in 2009 to less than 590,000 by August of 2013, even as applications increased by an average of five percent per year. Attrition among examiners also decreased.

Processing time was also reduced, from 27.2 months for an initial determination in 2009 to 16.5 months today. The office’s goal is to reduce the time to 10 months by 2015.

Forcarino also oversaw the introduction of new procedures to measure the quality of patent examination.

The previous quality factors were: (1) the quality of the action setting forth the final disposition of the application, (2) the quality of the actions taken during the course of the examination, and (3) the perceived quality of the patent process as measured through external quality surveys of applicants and practitioners.

The new factors measure: (1) the quality of the examiner’s initial search, (2) the degree to which the first action on the merits follows best examination practices, (3) the degree to which global USPTO data is indicative of compact, robust prosecution, and (4) the degree to which patent prosecution quality is reflected in the perceptions of the examination corps as measured by internal quality surveys.

For her accomplishments, Focarino received the Department of Commerce Silver Medal for Leadership in 2010.

Focarino, who has a degree in physics from the State University of New York, started her USPTO career as a junior patent examiner in 1977 – one of two women out of the ten patent examiners hired that year. (In more recent years, the USPTO has hired about 1,200 patent examiners annually.) She is the first female Patent Commissioner.

As Commissioner, Focarino acts as the chief operating officer for the USPTO, overseeing the nine Patent Technology Centers and coordinating the patent application examination process. She also led the “road show” to open new patent offices in 2012.

Related Articles

Federal Circuit Finds Semiconductor Claims Unpatentable

Federal Circuit:
Semiconductor patent
Claims are not valid
Read More

TTAB: No Bright-Line Rule against Trademarks for Characters

TTAB says:
Characters can be trademarks
If used properly
Read More

Judge Throws Out Most of Artists’ AI Copyright Infringement Claims

Federal judge boots
Most AI copyright claims
Re: Stability
Read More

Stay Informed

Sign up to receive Patent Poetry—a monthly roundup of key IP issues in our signature haiku format. Four articles (only 68 syllables); zero hassle.



Artificial Intelligence

Blockchain & Cryptocurrency

Computer Technology & Software

Consumer Electronics

Electrical Devices



Mechanical Devices

Consumer & Retail Products

Hardware & Tools

Toys & Games



Chemical Compounds

Digital Health

Healthcare Products



Books & Publications

Brand Creation

Luxury Products

Photography & Video

Product Design