Wednesday, February 07, 2007

USPTO salaries and "Innovation and Its Discontents"

Of salaries at the USPTO, an IPBiz commenter had noted on 29 Jan 07 that starting salaries for examiners appeared to be about $38,400, quite a bit less than stated by the Washington Post.

IPBiz notes that a statement in Innovation and Its Discontents (Jaffe and Lerner) would seem to confirm the suspicions of the commenter:

Moreover, corporations and law firms can offer examiners many times over the approximately $40,000 starting salaries that the government offers. Needless to say, this federal compensation is far less than market rate, especially for the examiners of business method applications, who are typically required to have an engineering degree and an MBA, and often have a law degree as well. [Innovation and Its Discontents, Princeton Press, at page 13]

This is not to say that everything in Innovation and Its Discontents is accurate. For example, the criticism of the Quillen/Webster model for patent grant rate was by Robert Clarke, not "George" Clarke (although Robert Clarke observes that he does have ancestors named George).

In future posts, we will discuss inaccuracies in Innovation and Its Discontents. As one heads-up, Jaffe and Lerner got the story of Edison and the light bulb wrong. [ezine article downloaded 664 times as of 7 Feb.]

Separately, Chapter 5 of Innovation and Its Discontents, entitled "Slow Starvation," analyses the PTO administrative changes and some problems of fee diversion.

PatentHawk noted on 7 Feb about fee diversion:

From 1992 to 2004, about $750 million that could have gone to patent quality was "diverted," at a time when patent filings exploded, with a backlog of more than 800,000 applications. The average pendency is now over two and a half years, and it has taken up to 12 years for a patent grant.

PatentHawk noted on 8 Feb about patent reform that the Judiciary Committee will be holding hearings on 15 Feb. It also stated:

The FTC and National Academy of Sciences, having penned detailed analyses of their perspectives, will be represented at the hearing. Issues to be examined include the scope of claims for drugs and disease screening methods by the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, as well as how current patent law affords overbroad patents.

Another possible target for an oversight hearing is management of the USPTO. In a thinly veiled swipe, an IP Subcomittee document noted "recent complaints governing the quality of patents issued that may lead to infringement disputes and related litigation." Feeling the political heat, the allowance rate dropped precipitously last year, the agency already tightening up, but with buffonery - increasingly ridiculous rejections as examiners put the screws on, but face production pressure, hence leading to sloppy, hand-waving rejections. A growing backlog at the Patent Board of Appeals is inevitable.

IPBiz suspects the same bogus elevated patent grant rates will appear before the House Judiciary Committee. IPBiz notes again that a patent grant rate model that allows a grant rate to be in excess of 100% is no different than Joe Newman pushing a perpetual motion machine violating the laws of thermodynamics.


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