Updated manuals used by patent and trademark examiners at the USPTO are now available to the public through a searchable web portal.
For anyone involved in the patent or trademark application process, this provides an opportunity to review the exact wording of the instructions that examiners receive, and the definitions that they use.
There are multiple benefits to be derived from transparency in the examination process. Access to this information allows applicants and those acting on their behalf to strengthen their submissions, reducing administrative burden and delays in processing. Working from the same set of instructions and definitions also removes a barrier between the applicant and the examiner, allowing the use of common language to drive their efforts toward a common goal.
The web portal also provides a more efficient mechanism for the USPTO to release updates to instructions and definitions, so both public users and examiners have access to that information within hours, reinforcing common understanding.
Users can navigate through the manuals by browsing through the table of contents, or by searching for specific phrases, including wildcards. The search engine has some flexibility with respect to Boolean operators – allowing the user to search for combinations of phrases, and where phrases appear adjacent to each other, greatly improving the relevance of search results for users who are already familiar with what they are looking for but need to reference the actual instructions. A help guide near the search bar provides suggestions for using these features.
For users who prefer to annotate printed instructions, there do not appear to be any restrictions against using standard browser tools to copy text from the portal, generate PDF documents, or print sections of the manuals.
The Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) is available at tmep.uspto.gov.
The counterpart Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure is available at mpep.uspto.gov.