Improving the US Patent Office

New director wants faster invention patents.

US Patent and Trademark Office

The Internet era has been raging for over a decade but only in the last three years has the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) begun to accept a majority of its applications in digital form. David J. Kappos is the new head of the USPTO and his goal is to quickly bring the office into the 21st century.

At the moment the patent office’s pipeline is so clogged it takes two years for an inventor to get an initial ruling, and an additional year or more wrangling with examiner objections, for a patent to be issued. Slow responses from the USPTO have negative trickle down consequences. Small companies hoping to fund new technologies often need issued patents to satisfy investors. While waiting for patents to issue inventors developing new products may inadvertently incorporate design elements that become unusable when a pending patent finally issues. The Internet age created a surge in applications (not least because controversial "business method" patents became popular). In the past dozen years the number of patents pending for each patent more than doubled. This slowdown has occurred even though the number of patent examiners increased by about 25 percent in the last five years.

In 2010 an average of 2000 patent applications arrived at the USPTO every business day. That number was 950 in 1997.

One of Mr. Kappos ideas is to charge patent applicants a higher fee to guarantee that their applications will receive a ruling within a year. But much more needs to be done. Here's more from Edward Wyatt NYTimes.

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