When China actively boosts its development of the intellectual property industry, and strives for developing itself into an intellectual property powerhouse, a great number of enterprises, when selecting patent agencies, have few indexes for specifically evaluating those patent agencies, which renders the evaluation thereof not comprehensive enough. Therefore, enterprises have to select the most suitable patent agency by trial and error. The present paper hopes, by analyzing various factors and indexes influencing the patent quality in the process of patent service based on the operating practice of patent agencies, to find objective indexes for evaluating the service quality of patent agencies so that professionals in the patent service industry and applicants in need of patent services will have a more comprehensive and systematic understanding of the patent service quality, and thus lay a foundation for engaging in further discussions of the indexes for evaluating the patent service quality.
At present, most of the research on patent quality in the industry is made on the quality of patent application itself, and thus all measurement indexes relating to patent quality are under research centering on the characteristics of the patent itself. However, there is a small amount of research made on the patent service quality. The present paper hopes to find out objective, just, and fair indexes used for evaluating the patent service quality of patent agencies by means of research on steps having an influence on the patent quality in patent service based on the operating practice of patent agencies, so that professionals in the patent service industry and applicants in need of patent services have a more comprehensive and systematic understanding of the patent service quality, and thus lays a foundation for further research in the future.
II. Significance of research on patent service quality
According to the statistics of the State Intellectual Property Office of the P.R.C (hereinafter referred to as "SIPO"), there were 2,361,000 patent applications accepted in China in 2014, remaining basically the same on a year-on-year basis, wherein 928,000 patent applications are inventions, with an increase of 12.5% on a year-on-year basis; 868,000 patent applications are utility models, with a decrease of 2.7% on a year-on-year basis; 565,000 patent applications are designs, with a decrease of 14.4% on a year-on-year basis; and for each 10,000 people, there were 4.9 patents for invention. It can be seen from the data on the status of accepted patent applications (i.e., the number of applications of patents for invention is increasing, while the numbers of applications of patents for utility model and design are decreasing) that China is gradually paying more attention on technological innovation capabilities.
As for patent agencies in China, improvement of the technological innovation capability of an applicant means higher requirements on the quality and capability of patent service. The current status of patent applications of applicants in China is as follows: an applicant proposes a technical solution or thought, while a patent attorney from an agency will lay out the claims, i.e., the key point of patent application documents, and draft the description as a supplement to technical solution or thought proposed by the applicant. Therefore, when the quality of a "patent" is evaluated, a part of the "quality" is inevitably determined by the "patent agency".
Nowadays, a great number of scholars and professionals have made analyses of and research on the indexes for evaluating the patent quality. However, no systematic research has been made on the quality of a patent agency. In other words, no systematic conclusion has been reached. Accordingly, the research on the service quality of a patent agency is quite important for standardizing the patent service market, and improving the patent service quality and the management level of patent agencies in the future.
(I) Importance of patent service quality
The development of the patent service industry is closely related and complementary to the construction and progress of the patent system in China. Patent service has been growing together with the construction and progress of the patent system in China since the initial patent application. With nearly 30 years of development, patent agencies have been matured from several agencies initially to currently more than 1,000 patent agencies on different scales, in different organizational forms, and in different regions.
Applicants facing such a myriad of patent agencies may have no idea how to decide which agency to work with. In previous patent service practice, the writer often encounters the condition that some applicants do not know where to start when they are in need of patent application and hope to select a patent agency to provide patent services, because the applicants tend to select a patent agency in terms of its reputation, trial, recommendation in the industry, etc.
Applicants determine the service quality of a patent agency basically from self-praise of the patent agency, publicity on the Internet, introduction through their community, and so forth; however, they have no way to know the previous service quality of the patent agency, and even professionals in the industry have not come to a uniform conclusion in this aspect.
Additionally, when some applicants just begin with the patent application process, they have no clear understanding of the processes and quality of patent applications due to lack of experience on this matter. In this case, they have no criterion for weighing the patent service quality, which also causes trouble to many applicants when selecting a patent agency.
Therefore, research on the patent service quality indexes has quite an important significance for applicants and the patent service industry. If the patent service quality indexes win approval in the industry, such research will become an external drive for evaluation of the patent service quality and application of the evaluation results as for the patent service industry, which can well boost a patent agency to continuously improve the patent service quality by making reference to the distance between itself and other agencies in the same industry so as to better serve the applicants.
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