Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Patent application backlog at USPTO continues to grow

Dan Caterinicchia of AP notes: The patent backlog is easy to see at the agency’s five-building campus in Alexandria, Va. Inventors wait on average 31 months for a patent decision as examiners slog through 675,000 pending applications, a number that is expected to hit a record 800,000 by year end.

Dan discussed a specific application of IBM: International Business Machine Corp.’s application for a secure “smart card” production method was originally filed Oct. 10, 2000, and crossed examiner Brandon Hoffman’s desk for the first time in March 2004. From his windowless office, Hoffman said he waded through a 10-page description before getting to the four lines that detailed IBM’s proposed innovation.

The 25-part claim on the patent IBM received required two pages to describe and was awarded in January following archive searches, roughly seven rejections and subsequent application amendments from the company. The patent is for 20 years, plus 834 days to compensate for processing delays. As is typical for the process, the two inventors named on IBM’s original application aren’t at the company any longer, said company spokesman Steven Malkiewicz.

Dan writes of John Doll: A 32-year agency veteran who began his career straight out of college, Doll’s passion for his work is evident. His business card reads “Alchemy and Sorcery Commissioner for Patents” and he has a Staples Inc. “easy button” on the door of his office. He said he’s proud that the agency’s error rate dropped to 3.5 percent last year from 5.5 percent just a few years ago.

“We’re deadly serious about quality and deadly serious about efficiency,” Doll said.

Dan got into the big guy/little guy debate in patent reform:

Smaller firms say they see a double standard in how large companies with big legal staffs file patent applications. Protesting loudly over the explosion of costly and time-consuming patent litigation in recent years, the large companies are the same ones that flood the PTO with overreaching applications they know will be rejected, said Bryan Lord, a founding member of the Innovation Alliance, a trade group for small businesses lobbying against proposed reform legislation recently introduced in both houses of Congress.


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