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November 19, 2008

Kitchen Sink Solutions

The Chamber of Commerce has released a draft report outlining proposed solutions for problems that currently plague the USPTO. The report, aimed at providing recommendations to the incoming Administration, includes all of the usual suspects - all of them. Written by an impressive line-up of contributors, including former PTO executives, the report aspires to "stimulate a fresh dialogue on the best ways to improve the PTO's patent examining performance". But instead, it reiterates tired approaches, and contains so many suggestions, probably due to the large number of contributors - all with differing opinions, it is difficult to determine where to even begin this proposed conversation of change.

From "Recommendations for Consideration by the Incoming Administration Regarding THE U.S PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE":

First, outlining the problems.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is an agency in crisis facing significant challenges. The most significant obstacles include:

  • A backlog of 750,000 applications awaiting a first action continues to worsen.
  • The likely re-introduction of legislation in the 111th Congress to reform the American patent system which will impose new challenges on the PTO.
  • Making effective and efficient use of a two billion dollar budget derived solely from user fee revenues.
  • Directing more than 9,000 employees, many of whom have less than five years of examining experience under a highly unionized and information-technology-driven work environment.
  • Coordinating domestic programs within an international framework that is intensely divided along North-South lines.

Then, the recommendations.

The recommendations focus on solutions that could do the following:

  • Improve the quality of U.S. patents
  • Provide adequate resources to do the job
  • Reform the patent examiner production system
  • Improve timeliness of administrative actions
  • Strengthen the PTO's relationship with the user community
  • Enhance organizational management
  • Appoint a well-qualified under secretary and director
  • Permit applicants to defer patent examination
  • Rethink the current fee schedule
  • Enhance efficiency of the examination process by reforming examiner/applicant incentives.

Discussion of each recommendation has a kitchen-sink-list of possible solutions.

Although provoking discussion is a worthwhile endeavor and the report may have good intentions, for true progress, guidance is needed to know where to begin.

It is unclear when the document will be released in final form.

This author participated in a similar exercise, here.

Posted by Mr. Platinum at November 19, 2008 9:47 AM | The Patent System


Mr. Platinum -- your suggestions are pretty good.

Posted by: John prosecutor at November 19, 2008 7:47 PM

do you have a year-to-year graph of the number of examiners with five or more years experience? if so, please post

Posted by: John prosecutor at November 19, 2008 7:48 PM

The entire problem seems silly to me. My understanding is that the PTO, unlike most government agencies, actually generates revenue every year. The PTO is operating on a budget surplus, yet the backlog is growing. Gee, I can't imagine why. I do not claim to be an expert on the matter, but it certainly appears that management is perversely incentivized to try to set irrelevant performance criteria and then meet or exceed these criteria without expending additional funds. In reality, the PTO just needs to start spending more money. Hire more examiners and offer the GOOD examiners more money so that they will be motivated to stay.

Posted by: JCD at November 21, 2008 1:54 PM