In his most recent blog post, USPTO Director David Kappos addresses problems and potentials of the USPTO's SPE system. A SPE or Supervisory Patent Examiner serves as the direct manager and trainer for around 13-20 patent examiners. SPE's obviously play an important role in the examination process. Kappos writes:
Our first-line managers play a critical role in the achievement of USPTO goals. In fact, my management experience has taught me that first-line managers have *far* more impact on the employees they manage than anyone else in the enterprise – more ability to develop employee skills and careers, more ability to produce outcomes that are successful for both employee and the enterprise. Their day-to-day work as coaches, guides, trainers, and mentors for employees is essential to creating a supportive, effective workplace.
On Patently-O and elsewhere, patent examiners have discussed qualities of good SPEs and bad SPEs. Partially in consideration of those remarks, Director Kappos is focusing on revamping the performance review system for SPEs (AKA the performance appraisal plan or PAP). The idea is to focus SPE attention and energy in the right areas. The performance rating will be based on (1) a measure of the quality of examiner work (25%); (2) a measure of workflow productivity toward the goal of pendency reduction (25%); (3) a measure of how responsive the SPE is to Art Unit examiners as well as to inquiries from applicants (20%); (4) a measure of the SPEs service as a coach and mentor to Art Unit examiners (15%); and (5) a measure of leadership activities of the SPE (15%).
Comments on the new SPE PAP can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Can someone send me further details on the plan?)