Reducing patent backlog could take years, agency official says

Reducing a backlog of hundreds of thousands of pending patent applications could take several years, despite a budget boost that has enabled the Patent and Trademark Office to hire a record number of examiners this year, PTO director Jon Dudas said Monday.

"The current backlog is about 490,000 applications -- the highest ever," Dudas said during a Senate Judiciary Intellectual Property Subcommittee hearing on overhauling the patent system.

Dudas said PTO has received a record number of patent applications every year for the past 20 years, but did not begin hiring in record numbers until this year.

PTO received $1.6 billion in FY05, $342 million more than it received in FY04. Dudas said PTO is using much of that increase to hire 860 new examiners this year, for a total of about 4,400.

"Three years down the line, four years down the line, the hiring we're doing will have an effect," Dudas said, noting that it takes an average of 28 months for PTO to decide whether to grant a patent. He said for more complex subjects, such as data-processing technologies, the average patent pendency is about three years.

"Without fundamental changes in the way [PTO] operates, the average pendency in these areas could double by 2008," Dudas said.

Judiciary ranking member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., noted that PTO receives more than 350,000 patent applications annually and approved 187,000 applications in 2004.

"That is more than 500 approved patents every single day, and I think that could be a matter for concern," Leahy said. "When non-innovative inventions are patented, some patent-holders fear they will spend more time litigating than they do innovating."

Leahy said lawmakers should consider modifying the process to allow for patent challenges "before costly, highly technical litigation is required." Judiciary Intellectual Property Subcommittee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said there is a "high degree of agreement" among stakeholders on the need for a post-grant review process.

But Hatch noted that "significant differences remain" on other issues, including whether to change the rules by which patent holders can obtain injunctive relief against patent infringers.

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

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

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

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

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

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