Sunday, December 14, 2008

Reducing patent application backlog a top priority

CongressionalDaily wrote: Reducing the Patent and Trademark Office's growing backlog of applications should be one of the highest priorities for the agency in the Obama administration, several former high-level PTO officials agreed Thursday, Dec. 11.

The article also wrote: Nick Godici, who ran the PTO from 2001 until 2005, argued the backlog is stifling innovation because companies allocate more money and resources to move applications through the system. Innovations cannot be finalized as swiftly as they had before, he said, adding that the PTO is "becoming sand in the gears of this progress."

One must distinguish between Director of the USPTO and Commissioner of Patents.

The article mentioned a Chamber of Commerce report:

Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will soon unveil its PTO recommendations. According to a draft report obtained by CongressDaily, the Chamber will urge the agency to overhaul the patent examiner production system; make administrative actions timelier; strengthen the PTO's relationship with the user community; enhance organizational management; and permit applicants to defer examination.

***The IAM blog talked about what the South Korean patent office is doing -->

However, there is one country that has managed to do something. Pendency times to a first office action in Korea are now an average of 10 months, which is down from around 22 months five years ago. According to the most recent annual report of the The Korean IP Office this has been managed by "by refining the examination process through Six Sigma management, by introducing at-home examinations, and by making other improvements". Among these other improvements, I understand is hiring more examiners, introducing performance-related pay and outsourcing prior art searches. A three-speed examination system, effectively allowing applicants to fast track their cases or to defer them, has also been recently introduced.

All of which is great. But I wonder whether people in the US would be comfortable with the specifics of what the Koreans have done. Would USPTO users stand for a three speed system, for example? How would USPTO unions react to the outsourcing of prior art searches? I can see cans of worms popping open all over the place.

Six-sigma management is nice talk, but what is an "at home examination"? Hiring more examiners and outsourcing prior art searches is nothing new. Not much in the way of insight here.


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