PTO director promises better review of patent applications

The quest of the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) for more rapid evaluation of patent applications will not lead the PTO to rubber-stamp applications, Director James Rogan said on Monday.

"Our job is not just to issue patents but to reject patents," Rogan told members of the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA). "That is just as important a function."

Under the "21st-Century Strategic Plan" that he announced earlier this month, Rogan hopes over the next five years to reduce patent pendency, or the time it takes to issue patents, from a projected 25 months to 18 months. He is pursuing modernization because PTO expects 348,000 patent applications this year, atop a backlog of 408,000.

But Rogan said that "pendency takes a back seat to quality" and that he is "prepared to sacrifice" pendency if he could help ensure that patent applications undergo a more thorough vetting process. Rogan made the comments in response to a question from CCIA President Ed Black about measures that could be done to curb questionable patents, including many "business method" patents that have proven controversial within the technology industry.

"Because we take our cue from the courts and Congress," Rogan said, "we don't have the luxury" to decide the standards for what constitutes acceptable patents. He said PTO has boosted the number of examiners in the business-method arena from 12 to 150, and that the percentage of successful applications has fallen from nearly 70 percent to about 45 percent.

The initiative to put a "second set of eyes" on business-method patents has proven so successful, he said, that he hopes to expand it into all high-tech and biotech patents. But in spite of his willingness to sacrifice pendency, he said that also can be lowered by facilitating electronic filing and by contracting out the ability for PTO to search for evidence of previous inventions-two key elements of Rogan's strategic plan.

Rogan said he had reached an agreement with the European patent office to co-maintain the software it uses in its electronic filing system. Such e-applications constitute 30 percent of European applications, compared with only 2 percent in America.

Rogan hopes to extend the agreement to the Japanese patent office, thereby covering 85 percent of all worldwide patent applications. He also said the greater cooperation would not mean that the United States is adopting the European and Japanese "first-to-file" system-as opposed to awarding American patents to the first inventor.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.