Patent office chief not optimistic about halting diversion of funds
"My focus is to make sure that this office has the funds necessary" to ensure that patent applications are processed in a timely fashion and that pendency--the average length of time for a patent to be issued--begins to go down instead of up, said Rogan, a former House Republican from California.
"I want to make the case both on the Hill and in the administration, and in the corporate world, about the importance of the patent office, and the importance of intellectual property and investment in it," Rogan said in an interview with National Journal's Technology Daily. But as to undoing the 10-year practice of diverting patent revenues for other governmental spending priorities, he said, "If I were coming into this job from a Pollyannaish perspective, I would say not to siphon off funds from the Patent and Trademark Office. But I have a realistic perspective on the likelihood of undoing policy."
"The reality is that the PTO is not an independent island from government, Congress and appropriators, and I am under no illusions that convincing Congress to give up power over appropriating" will succeed. "A lot of my predecessors have made the same argument and haven't fared well because those in Congress who have power don't like to surrender it."
Rogan said he hoped to address patent pendency by hiring 680 new examiners this year, which would be the first substantial increase in two years. About 500 of that total would be devoted to examining high-tech patent applications.
"We are a victim of our own technological advancement," Rogan said. "If you walk around the hallways here, you see a number of framed pictures of the artwork of patent models for inventions from the plow and the river raft to the locomotive and cotton gin. The thing that amazed me about those inventions is that [the applications for them were] one page."
"Now, there are very few patent applications of any significance that come through that are one page," he said. The result is a much more complicated examination of patent claims and often time-consuming search for "prior art," or evidence about the originality and novelty of a supposedly new invention.
Rogan, who also advises the Commerce secretary on intellectual property generally, said policymakers need to exercise care not to go too far with protections.
Referring to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Rogan said, "I voted for the DMCA because I felt that it had a number of provisions that were healthy, but there were others that gave me concern--including issues relating to 'fair use.' I expressed a personal discomfort with the idea that we were eliminating the ability for people to make use" of certain technologies through its bars on circumventing access and copy controls on copyrighted material.
"I will be tracking [the issue] and make recommendations at the appropriate time," Rogan said.