CONGRESS SHOULD STOP DIVERTING PTO FUNDS

It’s amazing how our elected officials continue simultaneously to tout technology and innovation as the keys to creating jobs and for the twenty-first century, and deny the PTO the ability to use the revenue the PTO generates to improve its systems. The news posted April 22 on the Director's Forum blog that as a result of Congress’ decision to continue to divert PTO funds, the PTO will need to delay implementation of procedures to expedite applications, again delay updating its outdated computer systems, scrap plans to open an office in Detroit, reduce training and eliminate overtime, can only be described as disheartening.

But this is nothing new. Fifty years ago, in Graham v. John Deere, 383 U.S. 1 (1966) Justice Clark wrote: “…the primary responsibility for sifting out unpatentable material lies in the Patent Office. To await litigation is---for all practical purposes—to debilitate the patent system…In this connection we note that the Patent Office is confronted with a most difficult task.” The Court expressed concern about the backlog of applications and observed that the President had appointed a task force to “develop more efficient administrative procedures and techniques that will further expedite dispositions and at the same time insure the strict application of appropriate tests of patentability.”

The PTO would have a better chance of achieving those goals if it were permitted to use the money it generates to take the actions it will now need to postpone.
 

IP Rules the World

Interesting article in the New York Times this morning reports that Silicon Valley companies in the business of developing solar panels have been beaten to market by the Chinese, and that the Chinese are driving down prices and margins while the U.S. companies are struggling to gain enough efficiencies to enable them to compete. The article quotes the CEO of one of the U.S. companies, Innovalight: “How do you fight against enormous subsidies, low-interest loans, cheap labor and scale and a government strategy to make you No. 1 in solar?” The obvious answer he gives: “Innovation will be the heart of the U.S. strategy, and although it might not create the same scale, we’re exporting well-protected technology to China and creating well-paying jobs here.”

Recent news on the domestic “well-protected technology” front is less encouraging than one would hope, however. The USPTO reports on its Data Visualization Center that the average time a patent remains pending is nearly three years (35.3 months), and there is a backlog of nearly three quarters of a million patents. If no new patents were to be filed, the USPTO estimates that it would take approximately 26 months to issue a first office action for every one. The USPTO aspires to reduce the average time a patent remains pending to 20 months. That would be much better, but is it good enough for the heart of our strategy?