Monday, February 20, 2006

Dudas talks about 600,000 application backlog at USPTO

At a speech at University of North Carolina-Charlotte [UNCC] on Friday, Feb. 17, Jon Dudas noted that the United States Patent Office [USPTO] has a backlog of about 600,000 applications; it often takes more than two years to process an application. Application fees are $1,000, although small businesses can qualify for a lower charge. Dudas noted that hiring 1,000 additional examiners annually over the next five years will reduce the backlog of patent applications.

Patently O had noted that the backlog in one class [275] was 19,181 for fiscal year 2004. A commenter on Patently O stated on 6 Jan 06:

The PTO also alleges that the increase in continuations poses a burden on the office and precludes examiners from acting on new cases, thereby contributing to the backlog. But I've researched issued patents back to 1970, and the average percentage of continuations filed (for patented cases anyways) was about 27.5%, and it has not changed that much. Moreoever, the backlog only exists in 2 technologies - software and electronics, which is not surprising to most patent practitioners - and the PTO has not provided any evidence that more continuations are filed in these technologies. The PTO faces backlogs like this whenever there is a new technology. In the 1950's and 1960's it was polymers, in the 1980's and 1990's it was biotechnology, and now its software. The backlog has nothing to do with continuation applications (interestingly, the Fed. Reg. notes that 2nd generation continuations only account for 3.7% of filings for continuations, and 3.1% for RCEs - so how does that contribute to the backlog, and how does elimination of these continuations get rid of the backlog?). New technologies with little prior art are harder to examine, and always create a backlog that takes the PTO 5-10 years to remove.

Returning to Dudas' comments on hiring, the issue is not simply hiring, because the USPTO has a severe attrition rate.

The Charlotte Observer noted that Dudas cited a 2001 report that ranked UNCC first in the nation in the number of patent applications and start-up companies, second in innovations, and third in the number of patents issued per $10 million in research expenses. The report was by the Association of University Technology Managers. Dudas called the university a "model" in promoting innovation in health care technology.

[IPBiz post 1260]


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