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Congress Examining USPTO Backlog Issues

Written by on Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Congress is examining backlog issues at the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO"), according to a report by Peter Zura’s 271 patent blog.   The report indicated that Howard Berman, Chairman, Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property recently sent a letter to USPTO Director Jon Dudas asking a number of questions relating to these issues.

Peter Zura’s 271 patent blog reported on the highlights of the letter as follows:

  • According to the recent GAO report titled "Hiring Efforts Are Not Sufficient to Reduce the Patent Application Backlog, " the GAO found that the USPTO cannot hire enough patent examiners to reduce patent pendency in the next five years. It seems, however, that this projection is based on estimates provided by the USPTO. . . . Please provide all data related to these "USPTO estimates, " including mathematical models, and underlying statistics and assumptions such as examiner retention and productivity. Under these same assumptions, hypothetically, how many patent examiners would have to be hired in the next five years in order to reduce the patent backlog?
  • After release of the above mentioned GAO report, the USPTO issued"a press release on October 4, 2007 that stated the USPTO would"review assumptions the agency uses to establish production goals for patent examiners." Then, before the Subcommittee, Director Dudas confirmed that the USPTO has begun to study patent examiner production goals. Please provide details on the methodology of the study and personnel conducting it. What is the current progress of the study and when can Congress expect the study to be completed? To what extent is the Patent Office Professional Organization and the Patent Public Advisory Committee involved in this study. . . . .
  • Examination on Request (or, as the USPTO called it, Deferred Examination) is used in many countries such as Canada and Japan. Under such a system, applications are not examined automatically, as in the U.S., but only upon a specific Request for Examination within a set time period, say 3 years. If no request is filed within that period, the application is deemed abandoned and is never examined. From experience of other patent offices, 10% to 40% of applications are never examined under Examination on Request systems, resulting in substantial workload reduction. This is due to applicants’ voluntary abandonment of obsolete applications prior to the Request for Examination deadline. Under current USPTO practice, applications that become obsolete, but receive examination by the USPTO, are the worst investment the USPTO can make because their obsolescence means that the patents are unlikely to fetch any renewal fees.
  • Why did the USPTO reject such a method that has the potential to reduce its workload and increase efficiency?

There is no word yet on the USPTO’s response to this inquiry.  We will keep you posted of any developments that arise.  To review the full text of the letter, please see attached.


Category: Biotech Legislative Developments  |  Comments Off on Congress Examining USPTO Backlog Issues

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