Monday, January 17, 2011

Schmid says the situation at the USPTO has worsened

John Schmid of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes:

A year and a half after President Barack Obama appointed an IBM Corp. executive to fix the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, its problems by several key measures have only worsened, as damage inflicted by years of congressional raids on its funding continues to make it all but impossible for the agency to keep up with its workload.

The result: More than 1.2 million patent applications, filed by inventors and entrepreneurs ranging from major corporations to garage tinkerers, are still awaiting final decisions, a number nearly unchanged from the levels of the past three years.

Also unchanged is a bureaucracy that publishes entire patent applications online 18 months after they are filed, whether or not they have been acted upon - and most often they have not, because the agency is so far behind.

That puts American ingenuity up for grabs, free to anyone with an Internet connection.

"In China, there are thousands of engineers who don't work in laboratories inventing new technologies," said Paul Michel, recently retired chief justice of the federal court in Washington, D.C., that handles patent cases. "They sit in computer rooms reading U.S. patent applications on the Internet. And they can use the technology anywhere in the world, including in America, for free.

"American economic security is threatened in a way Congress has failed to recognize," Michel said.


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