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The U.S. Patent Backlog

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the we-will-be-with-you-shortly dept.

Patents 195

coondoggie writes "Even with its increased hiring estimates of 1,200 patent examiners each year for the next 5 years, the US Patent and Trademark Office patent application backlog is expected to increase to over 1.3 million at the end of fiscal year 2011 the Government Accounting Office reported today. The USPTO has also estimated that if it were able to hire 2,000 patent examiners per year in fiscal year 2007 and each of the next 5 years, the backlog would continue to increase by about 260,000 applications, to 953,643 at the end of fiscal year 2011, the GAO said. Despite its recent increases in hiring, the agency has acknowledged that it cannot hire its way out of the backlog and is now focused on slowing the growth of the backlog instead of reducing it. This too is but one of the goals of the Patent Reform Act currently making the rounds in the US Senate."

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fp? (0, Offtopic)

byteframe (924916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22583944)

boo yeah? ps. eben moglen freed the lipitor patent

Re:fp? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22584380)

Just FYI
  byteframe is a child molestor

Therefore (5, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22583954)

I hereby submit a patent to use computing and human resources technology to increase the speed of the patent process.

Pay me, bitches.

Re:Therefore (5, Funny)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584078)

Sorry, you have to wait until your patent is approved... catch 22.

I want to cover you in a shower of jizz (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22584668)

-parent

Patent #1094398532 - One click approval (2, Funny)

neapolitan (1100101) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584288)

I patent the "One-click" patent approval process.

I'll license it back to them for a fee.

Re:Therefore (1)

asc99c (938635) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585538)

Its already patented. That's the problem!

Software patents (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22583982)

I wonder how many of those are (potentially prior art) software patents?

Re:Software patents (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22584102)

I'd imagine most are actually business method patents. Software patents are stupid. Business method patents are even stupider. (Yes, there is some overlap, like software-implemented business method patents)

Re:Software patents (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584308)

Software patents are stupid.

* patents are stupid.

Re:Software patents (1)

Pseudonym (62607) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584716)

Patents are evil, but they're a necessary evil. Some evil patents are less necessary than others. Some are completely unnecessary.

Re:Software patents (4, Insightful)

hardburn (141468) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584826)

In principle, not evil at all. The idea is that the government will grant you a limited time monopoly on your invention, provided you document everything so that once your time is up, anyone can create and improve on the idea. This is in contrast to trade secrets, where you get to keep your invention for as long as you can keep it a secret.

(As a side note, the NSA has cheated this system, where some of their algorithms are currently a trade secret, and will suddenly become a patent if they're ever revealed).

The system today has severe implementation flaws, but the idea behind it is brilliant.

Re:Software patents (1)

fastest fascist (1086001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22586048)

How can a government agency even have trade secrets? What trade? Who's the competition they're protecting the secrets from?

Re:Software patents (1)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 6 years ago | (#22586580)

How can a government agency even have trade secrets? What trade? Who's the competition they're protecting the secrets from?
Other governments?

=Smidge=

Re:Software patents (5, Interesting)

ls -la (937805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584722)

No, patents have their place or the founding fathers would have forbade them altogether. The current problems stem largely from
(1) business method patents
(2) software patents
(3) genome patents
(4) the patenting process (including the difficulty and cost of overturning a patent, compared to getting an obvious patent through)
(5) patent trolls abusing (4).

Patents on physical inventions which are clearly new, innovative, and unique are fine.

Re:Software patents (0, Troll)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585156)

No, patents have their place or the founding fathers would have forbade them altogether.

That was over 200 years ago. Patents had their place...maybe. These days we have to create shortages just to keep the "market" afloat. It must expand and grow infinitely, or we will all die a horrible, screaming death. Bunch of damn pirates are running the economy.

Re:Software patents (1)

louisadkins (963165) | more than 6 years ago | (#22586124)

I hope the current system does get some much-needed reform. I find it sad that I have seen, more than once, someone decide to not pursue something because they were afraid someone would have a "patent to do something with something else that's not really related to what they were thinking" that would still be general enough to press suit with.

Re:Software patents (4, Insightful)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585212)

Why do people speak as if the founding fathers were infallible? Not that I don't agree with your points. I would add medical patents to that list though, at least for non Viagra type medicines.

Re:Software patents (5, Insightful)

fastest fascist (1086001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22586082)

What is WITH this founding fathers cult? Can't you trust logic and argumentation, must you invoke a bunch of ancients as some kind of semi-divine authority to back your opinions up?

Re:Software patents (2, Insightful)

kryten_nl (863119) | more than 6 years ago | (#22586742)

How many amendments does your constitution have again?

Re:Software patents (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 6 years ago | (#22587010)

The current problems stem largely from
(1) business method patents
(2) software patents ......
Patents on physical inventions which are clearly new, innovative, and unique are fine.

Yet where do we draw the line? What makes an invention "physical"? A prototype? Some patented devices are literally the size of buildings, or otherwise intended for a one off construction, so demanding a prototype is sometimes unreasonable? Many software algorithims and even business methods are at times even more ingenious than many physical inventions.

I question the overall usefulness of patents. I really do. We have experienced more innovation, technological and economic progress in the last 15 years than at any time in history. And all the while, Chinese manufacturers have been flagrantly ignoring patents, and multinational research houses have amassed less patents than outright patent trolls.

In my opinion, patents are like firearms. Some countries allow or even promote their use. But there's an argument, which many countries accept, that they should be subject to very severe restrictions. I think the time has come to place such restrictions on patents.

Re:Software patents (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 6 years ago | (#22587138)

Software patents are stupid.

Software's just an implementation like anything else - gears, pulleys, etc. The more our economy and innovation tends toward information-based research, the more patents *should* be novel algorithms and such. That has nothing at all to do with the quality of the software patents now being approved, but it doesn't mean that an invention that is implemented in software is inherently bad.

The business method patents...I'm not willing to say they're all inherently bad, but the bar is retarded low for getting one.

What they told me (5, Interesting)

john_is_war (310751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22583988)

As a graduating computer engineer, I've been interviewing around, and USPTO was one of the places. Here's what they shared with me-
They are currently backlogged 5 years.
With their hiring surge of engineers, they want to bring the backlog to 2 years within 4 years IIRC
And apparently they crap money, with a starting salary of 63k with a 10k starting bonus for the first 4 years, plus a 10% bonus if a 130% efficiency rating is maintained for the 4 quarters.
The ones they are particularly hiring are EEs, CSs, and Comp Engs.

Now you know, and remember- Knowledge is power!

Re:What they told me (1)

warrior_s (881715) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584148)

Well it depends a lot on the city in which the job is... but i think 63K starting salary for a EE/CE/CS graduate is below the market rate.

Re:What they told me (5, Informative)

john_is_war (310751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584164)

Average CS starting is 51k, Comp Eng is 56k, actually.

Re:What they told me (1)

andy314159pi (787550) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584616)

Average CS starting is 51k, Comp Eng is 56k, actually.
For what level of education?

Re:What they told me (1)

john_is_war (310751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22586718)

This information is for a BS.

Re:What they told me (0)

ls -la (937805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584870)

Average CS starting is 51k, Comp Eng is 56k, actually.
Source? What years, locations, and education levels does that cover? And does that count high schoolers making $10/hr doing web design over the summer?
I'm graduating with a BA in CS this year, and barely looking at any CS jobs below 85k, and there are plenty above.

Re:What they told me (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22584992)

I'm graduating with a BA in CS this year, and barely looking at any CS jobs below 85k, and there are plenty above.
Reality is about to kick you very hard in the groin.

Enjoy.

Re:What they told me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585144)

+25 insightful to the parent.

To the GP: Gates' job may still be available. You looking at that one too?

Re:What they told me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22584876)

Where are you getting that? The average starting salary I'm seeing from people leaving my University is in the low $70k range for CS and ECE.

Re:What they told me (1)

Steve B (42864) | more than 6 years ago | (#22586550)

"63K starting salary for a EE/CE/CS graduate is below the market rate"

An EE/CE/CS graduate who successfully cross-trains in paralegal skills to do the job, at that. Gee, wonder why they can't hire or keep enough people to handle the workflow...?

Re:What they told me (2, Insightful)

soundhack (179543) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584226)

I wonder how efficiency ratings are measured? If it's number of patents processed, then there is an incentive to rubber stamp applications (pass a lot, fail a lot, or come up with a semi-random scheme).

Really though, with the years you've invested in your engineering degree would you want to go straight to a paper shuffling job right out of school?

Re:What they told me (3, Informative)

john_is_war (310751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584252)

From my understanding, the first 6 months, you get 10 patents every week or biweek, unclear on that. Then after 6 months you start getting appeals back from rejected patents (6 months being the max time). And that point, the number of new patents expected is diminished. And of course all the paperwork needs extensive background research for prior art etc. etc.

And as for that, it's not my main choice, but it's better than no job.

Re:What they told me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22584652)

From my understanding, the first 6 months, you get 10 patents every week or biweek, unclear on that.
The patent office has revamped its training program, which used to be 3 weeks if classes and instruction followed by "immersion training" which just meant going ahead and examining patents right after that. Now, there is a 9 month training period.

Re:What they told me (1)

ls -la (937805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584752)

I wonder how efficiency ratings are measured? If it's number of patents processed, then there is an incentive to rubber stamp applications (pass a lot, fail a lot, or come up with a semi-random scheme).

Really though, with the years you've invested in your engineering degree would you want to go straight to a paper shuffling job right out of school?

IIRC, they're expected/required to process 5 applications a week (avg 8 hrs/app), probably averaged over some time frame, regardless of how long the application is. And yes, both your concerns are valid: because of the quota, there's no incentive to do a good job, just to do it quickly; and the people that would know the most about this are least likely to want to do it.

Re:What they told me (3, Informative)

mavenguy (126559) | more than 6 years ago | (#22586972)

Production is measured in units called "balanced disposals" which is the average, over any period of measurment (bi-week, quarter, fiscal year) of the number of first actions on the merits (N) and the number of disposals (D, which are allowances, abandonments, or examiners answers on appeal). For each of the various art areas a historical expetancy X is assigned as so many hours per balanced disposal. the office wide expectancy for this is a bit over 20 hours per balanced disposal for a hypothetical GS-12 examiner. For examiners at other grades/authority levels this is adjusted by a factor as follows:
GS-5 0.6
GS-7 0.7
GS-9 0.8
GS-11 0.9
GS-12 1.0
GS-13 1.15
GS-13 1.25 (partial signatory authority)
GS-14 1.35 (full signatory authority, primary examiner)
GS-15 1.45 (full signatory authority, primary examiner expert)

There are not many GS-15s; the typical top for "lifers" is GS-14 primary examiner.
A primary has to really crank out work and make sure their production does not fall below 95% of their expectancy or bad things be gin to happen. 4 quarters of 90% and you're out the door. Many supervisors press examiners to not produce below 100% even if they are above 95% (fully sucessful in the production element of their performance appraisal plan)

Re:What they told me (5, Insightful)

ServerIrv (840609) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584262)

plus a 10% bonus if a 130% efficiency rating is maintained for the 4 quarters.

There is a built in incentive for bad patents to get through. Patents get rubber stamped simply because of the need of efficiency to get out of the whole backlog mess. Instead of actually diligently checking and rechecking for prior art conflicting patents, the employee stamps it as good, as fast as possible, and walks away with their 10% bonus. This seems to be the same problem that tech support has with call tracking. The faster a person gets you off the phone, the more money they make, and the faster they get promoted.

Re:What they told me (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22584894)

> There is a built in incentive for bad patents to get through.

Looking at this job I am almost tempted to apply. The money is good even without the bonus. It would be interesting and varied work. And one would be in fine company, as Mr Einstein himself was once a patent clerk.

But I would last all of 5 minutes before getting fired. The problem is as computer scientist and inventor and someone who knows the difference between an abstract idea and well thought out and unique implementation that solves original problems I would have to apply ethical standards to my work.

Got a business patent? In the bin it goes.
Got an existing idea you want to add the words "web browser" or "computer" to? In the bin.
Only got mathematical algorithm? No language specific implementation? In the bin.
You want to add a tiny specific modification to an existing idea? Sorry, in the the bin.
Something that I can find published on Google with trivial searching? In the bin.

Well, you might think my manager would be happy as a pig in shit, praising a wonderful worker who is clearing the backlog by rigorously applying the rules. Wouldn't you?

Oh, but wait... Where does the patent office make its money? Approving patents.

Which is why the rules were changed to allow all this crap through in the first place. There aren't suddenly more ideas in the world, the bar for patentability has been drastically lowered and the system is broken because of it.

So, how about this for an idea. If he approves a patent that is subsequently challenged and voided the clerk loses twice their bonus and the patent office has to refund the application fee in full. And to make sure the applicant doesn't benefit from specious claims, they must pay a fine of 10 times the application fee to the government.

Then let's see who is so quick with the rubber stamp.

What is needed is incentive to find _good_ patents. To add this incentive, how about a royalty type bonus system. A clerk who approves a patent that runs its full term gets a small bonus at the end of its life, related to how much money it has actually made through the sale of real products (litigation payments would be excluded).

Re:What they told me (5, Informative)

greenreaper (205818) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585298)

The system gets paid for dealing with applications, not for approving them. If they aren't approved, they still keep the money. Same with trademarks.

Re:What they told me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22587060)

Yes, the system is very much skewed in favor of allowing patents. Basically applicants get two "cracks" at it before you have to apply for re-examination (and pay more money). It goes like this:

First Action: Reject the patent, get 1 count (production unit that goes on your record). Write up an action that could be 10 pages or more with thoroughly cited prior art from all different areas of technology. OR Allow the patent, giving you 2 counts and write up a "reasons for allowance," usually about a page or 2 saying why it's allowed (leaving it pretty vague so you don't get in trouble).

Second Action (assuming you didn't allow it already): Reject the patent again, get NO COUNTS until the applicant responds (could be 6 months or more). As far as your production report is concerned, you might as well have played Tetris the entire time because you get no counts for this. Even then, they can argue and force ANOTHER action out of you with no counts. OR Allow the patent. 1 count, same as first action.

Re:What they told me (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585100)

As an examiner, you get credit for rejecting patents too. In fact, if you work it right using RCEs, an examiner can get more "counts" using rejections than allowances. Not that it's right, but I don't think the system encourages allowances over rejections, at least not for new examiners. It does, however, encourage crappy examination.

Re:What they told me (3, Insightful)

mavenguy (126559) | more than 6 years ago | (#22586512)

...10% bonus if a 130% efficiency rating is maintained for the 4 quarters...
If you enter as a GS-5 your production quota is 60% of the nominal GS-12(100%) production quota for the expectancy assigned to the docket that you will be working in (varies by art). By the time you make Primary Examiner (GS-14) you have to crank out 135% of the GS-12 expectancy. That's a factor of 2.25 more. In a recent GAO Report [gao.gov] recent hires who are leaving the PTO in droves cited "outdated production goals" as one of the leading reasons for leaving, and they weren't meaning too much time. For decades a management culture built on principles of ever tightening production, stricter date goals as the core of what was demanded. If quality and completness suffered it was ignored if nobody outside the Office noticed.

When the outsiders start to notice quality problems ( as has happened in the last few years)the response has been to increase "quality review" and orders to reject more and more, even if prior art references are crap, rather do anything to relax the production pressure wich might result in the finidng of better prior art and more thorough rejection of features tht might slip through. The result of this is that management has painted itself in a corner; if they relax goals, the backlog will increase even more, but if they are maintained or even increased the hemorrhage of new hires will similarly increase. There is just no quick fix out of this. Any substantive change will require a stark change in management culture. Good luck with that.

Re:What they told me (2, Insightful)

N8F8 (4562) | more than 6 years ago | (#22586830)

In DC 63K is like minimum wage elsewhere.

There is no real issue. Problem solved. (1)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584046)

1.3 million backlogged patents at what say $400.00 each is 400 Million dollars. I think the problem is solved simply hire additional patent examiners and pay them the 400 Million dollars that the people paid to have them examined. It might help with unemployment.

Re:There is no real issue. Problem solved. (1)

FromTheAir (938543) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584072)

If I did the math right that would be enough for 6,666 patent examiners at 60K each. Or is this issue a way to achieve some political objective?

Re:There is no real issue. Problem solved. (3, Funny)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584284)

They'd each need to do around a patent per day to get this finished with your numbers. But they are obviously flawed you forgot that you are dealing with a government program.

Patent requests: 400$ * 1,300,000 = +345,000,000$
RIAA support: 55,000,000
Physical infrastructure costs: 1 * 10,000,000 = -50,000,000
Execs: 2,000,000 * 7 = -35,000,000
Coordinators: 500,000 * 10 = -15,000,000
People who we don't know what they do (Management??): 80,000 * 300 = -24,000,000
Political bargaining: -35,000,000
Minimal patent examiners: - 35,000,000

Remaining funds: -as mush as you can convince people

In fact they are in dire need of financial support, for a government program they are barely scraping by.

Re:There is no real issue. Problem solved. (3, Informative)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#22586782)

Bzzzt...thank you for playing. at $400 each, it doesn't even cover the cost of the prime examiner. A post above gave about 8 hrs of allowed time for a patent examination (10 per bi-week). Even if they all went to fresh-hires (i.e. inexperienced) at $63k/yr+ 10k bonus, with a typical "efficient" overhead and G&A of 80%, and accounting for sick, vacation, and holiday leave (264 hrs/yr to start), I get a net cost of $541 per patent. And that ignores training, startup, any other incentives, higher cost of experienced examiners, re-examination, etc.

Even with all the cash they have, they can't hire enough to get them back to even.

Examiners don't quite do anything anyway (1, Insightful)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584056)

I think examiners encourage the use of big words in a patent, not so that the patent is unique, but so they can claim ignorance when someone re-patents something in existence. If an investigation comes up then the patent examiner can claim ignorance. A lot of that techno-bable doesn't makes any sense to someone in the field.

Yes, I know. (1, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584068)

I have an application 12 months into a 30 month queue. In a fast-moving field, this is a huge headache. My previous patents only took about a year to get to first office action.

There's a new express program, though. If you file no more than three claims, file online, and do a more diligent search, the USPTO promises to process the patent in less than a year. That was just starting when I filed, and I didn't take that option.

A giant rubber stamp is needed (3, Interesting)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584094)

"Just rubber stamp it. The judicial branch will sort it out for us."

Is that what it's going to come down too?

Re:A giant rubber stamp is needed (2, Insightful)

vtscott (1089271) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584460)

I hope not. I would imagine that it's much cheaper to just have a competent patent examiner with enough time to do his/her research reject a patent than it is to get the courts involved.

Re:A giant rubber stamp is needed (3, Insightful)

ls -la (937805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584796)

"Just rubber stamp it. The judicial branch will sort it out for us."

Is that what it's going to come down too[sic]?
Unfortunately, yes. Since job performance is entirely based on number of applications processed, the examiners have very little incentive to do a good job, so unless they have a clear reason to reject an application in the first 5-10 pages, they'll likely just grant it. The problem then REALLY comes when the judicial branch says, "the patent office granted it, so if it's not patentable they can sort it out," which is what they have been doing for some time now. That's part of the reason it's so difficult to get a patent overturned: both branches say the other should do it.

Obvious Jobs Program (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584116)

It seems to me that the demand for patent examiners and the explosion of patent applications and money derived from them should add up to a lot bigger hire than just a few thousand more examiners. The PTO should charge an annual fee on patents that's a tiny percent of the revenue from their applications or licensing, which if enough to pay for enough examiners should still be under 1% of income under the patents. Then the amount of examiners will keep pace with the growth in the patents they have to examine.

In fact, the growth in patents and their revenue should even stimulate the production of American engineers. Offer full scholarships to engineers, funded by those fees, in exchange for them becoming paid examiners for a couple-few years at least, and returning for at least 6 months every 5-10 years for a couple-few decades. If they break that deal, they owe 2x their scholarship immediately, which can pay for more scholarships and paid examiners.

The patent system has many problems. Primary is that the American people subsidize the creation of intellectual property by paying for the expensive examination and challenge system, which we can ill afford with our current budget problems (and which was never fair to the public, anyway). Also too few examiners of too little quality and commitment. Calibrating a fee to hire examiners and create them by scholarship to the volume of applications should make the system more self-regulating. And good for engineers: Albert Einstein had most of his good ideas working in the Swiss patent office, which no doubt benefited from his talent and imagination. Let's see America protect both itself and its inventors with a simple device that balances both.

You may consider this design to be placed in the public domain :).

Re:Obvious Jobs Program (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584276)

"Offer full scholarships to engineers, funded by those fees..."

I was with you up, to this point, sorry.

1.) Not all patents are submitted by domestic entities.
2.) The trend in America towards a service industry, like the patent system issue, is not a new development - fresh engineers will come in lesser numbers, not more.

Re:Obvious Jobs Program (2, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584408)

So what if patents are submitted by non-domestic entities? If they want their patents to stay registered in the US, they'll pay the fees, just like they pay the fees for registration.

Engineers are part of a service industry. They don't actually manufacture anything, they're info workers. Fresh engineers will come in greater numbers when their education budget is less risky from both scholarships and more jobs when they graduate.

Congress steals the PTO's money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22584474)

Congress steals the PTO's money
The PTO isn't a separate entity that has a firewalled budget.
Congress sees the PTO as a cash cow and takes more from the PTO than they give back.

So, yes the PTO is under-funded.
No the fault isn't the company/inventors the fault is Congress.

Tell Congress to get their greedy little hands off the PTO and let them have the money they make.

Re:Congress steals the PTO's money (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584526)

Maybe so. That's why I specify how the PTO revenue is to be reinvested back into the PTO.

Maybe if every agency wasn't so busy pouring $TRILLIONS into the Pentagon and CIA budgets, there'd be more to go around.

Re:Congress steals the PTO's money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22585044)

Maybe if every agency wasn't so busy pouring $TRILLIONS into the Pentagon and CIA budgets, there'd be more to go around.
Wow and the Moonbat comes out
You have problems with your PTO argument so you go the never ending well of The Jew Puppet Bu$Hitler Chimpy McHaliburtin
You got any Anti-semitism **cough**cough** Anti-Zionism in that grab bag of nuttery?

Since you are obviously off your fucking rocker and more concerned with screaming than finding a reasoned solution, I'll just calmly back away from this discussion.

Re:Congress steals the PTO's money (1)

genaldar (1118197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22586206)

The military is the largest part of the budget and they generate a grand total of zero revenue. So if the PTO money is going to the general fund then the military would most likely be where it ends up. Or rather in the hands of some contractor since the soldiers get paid dick.

Re:Obvious Jobs Program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22584888)

Offer full scholarships to engineers, funded by those fees, in exchange for them becoming paid examiners for a couple-few years at least, and returning for at least 6 months every 5-10 years for a couple-few decades. If they break that deal, they owe 2x their scholarship immediately, which can pay for more scholarships and paid examiners.
This is hard to believe considering all of the years of FUD about the shortage of scientists and engineers, but there is already an over production of engineers and physical scientists and there has been for about 15-20 years. I know several people whose applications were ignored at the USPTO despite being fully qualified.

Re:Obvious Jobs Program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22587120)

IIRC The USPTO is s 100% self-sufficient; they are not subsidized by taxpayer monies.

Solutions? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22584120)

How about regional processing centers around the county (if they really are paying engineers 65K/year that goes along way in the midwest but not far in DC area). I would be happy to process patents in my technical field from home, with the proper training and tools prior art and patent serching. Let the academics, engineers, comptuer sci/e people get trained and process patentent part time from home!

A possible solution (4, Funny)

Venik (915777) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584224)

I think in this difficult time for our government all patriotic Americans should refrain from inventing stuff for the next five years.

DELETE WHERE ToLower(body) LIKE '%on the internet% (4, Insightful)

RingDev (879105) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584298)

Honestly, taking any existing patent and tossing it on the internet should be tossed immediately as obvious.

Knock out software patents, and patents on processes, and blamo! problem solved.

-Rick

Re:DELETE WHERE ToLower(body) LIKE '%on the intern (3, Insightful)

penix1 (722987) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584396)

Far easier...

Deny any patent with the words, "A method to..."

Problem solved. I bet the backlog drops by at least 3/4 what it is today.

Re:DELETE WHERE ToLower(body) LIKE '%on the intern (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584748)

My Patent:
A method to reduce the Patent Office backlog.

I wish I lived in the US. (1)

Lewrker (749844) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584424)

I could help post bogus patents so the stupid system finally breaks and you can introduce something sensible in its place.

God I want this problem (1)

Layth (1090489) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584440)

I have filed a few patents before.. so I know how much their pinch hurts in the wallet. What we basically have here is a governmental cash cow. I want this sort of problem with my side business. Too many customers to deal with!? If they start outsourcing to india, this kind of surplus could generate more revenue than oil. If anything I think they should be trying to INCREASE the growth of patent submissions, to better provide for the future generation of america. If you think of the children, it becomes obvious that there is a lot to gain here.

Re:God I want this problem (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584624)

Except, what's the percentage of bullshit patents, like 'A method of using a single mouse click to buy goods on the Internet'? How many of these patents, bullshit & otherwise, are actually covered by prior art that the inventor didn't find out about? And considering copyright is now almost forever, how long until patents are, too, considering there's such a backlog that it's in the best interest of the leading corporations to make it so?

Wow (2, Funny)

professorfalcon (713985) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584442)

They actually *read* patent applications?!?

God I want this Problem (2, Interesting)

Layth (1090489) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584466)

I have filed a few patents before.. so I know how much their pinch hurts in the wallet.
What we basically have here is a governmental cash cow.

I want this sort of problem with my side business. Too many customers to deal with!?

If they start outsourcing to india, this kind of surplus could generate more revenue than oil.
If anything I think they should be trying to INCREASE the growth of patent submissions, to better provide for the future generation of america.

If you think of the children, it becomes obvious that there is a lot to gain here.


( repost for readibility =/ )

Re:God I want this Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22584808)

If they start outsourcing to india, this kind of surplus could generate more revenue than oil.
There are too many fully qualified Americans who can do this work.

Re:God I want this Problem (3, Funny)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22586020)

If they start outsourcing to india, this kind of surplus could generate more revenue than oil.

If they start outsourcing to India, we'd probably see a lot of new inventions coming out of India ;-)

You'd think... (1)

Paiev (1233954) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584470)

You'd think that if we have patents [slashdot.org] like [slashdot.org] this [slashdot.org] out there, the patent office must not be spending that much time on patents...and yet, somehow we still have a growing backlog. Go figure.

Either they're spending a lot of time doing nothing and breezing through patents, are granting ridiculous patents after spending a lot of time reviewing them, or they're doing their job properly (or trying to, though how some of these patents ever get awarded is beyond me) and are grossly understaffed.

Hmmmmm..... (1)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584472)

I wonder how much of the backlog is frivolous patents, like IBM's recent applications, and that one involving gift cards.

Thats because they are allowing.... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584496)

....software patents and business methods. Which neither are of such qualities required of patents.

they are probably underestimating the backlog

It's just the math... (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584564)

To me, maths dictates that if the patent office hired 12,000 examiners this year and did so for the next 5 years, the problem described would begin to decrease at year 3 and disappear at year 5. That would be an achievement by US standards. Why don't these officials just do this grade 9 math?

Re:It's just the math... (2, Informative)

ls -la (937805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584832)

To me, maths dictates that if the patent office hired 12,000 examiners this year and did so for the next 5 years, the problem described would begin to decrease at year 3 and disappear at year 5. That would be an achievement by US standards. Why don't these officials just do this grade 9 math?
That would cost them more money. People are still going to apply for patents no matter how long it takes, so they really aren't losing much (financially) by keeping the backlog, whereas it would cost them ~600-700k/yr in salary to do what you suggest to kill the backlog.

why check them at all? (3, Interesting)

the cheong (1053282) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584576)

i must be a n00b in the patent process, because i don't understand why we need people to review patents in the first place. why don't we simply publish every patent on some online database, and review patents _only if_ disputes arise? if someone wants to patent something, then he must sift through the patent records _himself_ and make sure he's not infringing on anyone's rights. if a dispute (i.e. lawsuit) should ever be filed, _then_ we check the patent records to verify and take the appropriate course of action. with this system, people who want to patent things will be a lot more careful about their research on prior patents, no? maybe they'll even contact people with similar patents and clear everything up so that no disputes arise in the future? and the cost to the USPTO is simply publishing all the patents online and checking over disputed patents?

Re:why check them at all? (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585318)

I dont see a reason for the system to exist.

If someone wants to use an idea they should beable to do so without some money grabber waiting to sue them.

~Dan

Re:why check them at all? (2, Insightful)

aj50 (789101) | more than 6 years ago | (#22587036)

Because if I'm some inventor, and I come up with e.g. a top for baby beakers that really doesn't spill when it gets thrown across the floor, get an agreement with a supermarket to fund the manufacture and start producing and selling the things then without patent protection it will be a couple of months before every plastic utensil maker with products marketed at babies is also making them and because they've got a better manufacturing setup and can afford to invest more money in the product than I can, theirs are better and cheaper than mine and I can't sell any more.

The net result being that I say screw this inventing stuff business, it doesn't pay and the supermarket never funds an individual with a brilliant idea ever again because they didn't make their investment back.

The patent process makes sense, it just doesn't work for software because ideas are cheap and easy, there's very little cost of entry to produce a product and changes happen much faster. There's no need for patent protection for ideas in software, it still economically a good idea to innovate without them.

Re:why check them at all? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22587086)

Great idea! The backlog would vanish strait away.... I wonder why noone ever thought of this.

In other news, the courts are saying that cases are taking years before being processed, due to a sudden surge in patentcases.

Nobody from the patent office will tell you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22584698)

Nobody working there will tell you about how the office works, because of confidentiality requirements. I see a lot of complaints about too many patents getting through. The actual case is that there are probably too many patents being rejected. They are erring on the side of caution, as they always have, but the patents that get approved, with just a couple of notable exceptions that you've been reading about, really and truly deserve protection. These folks work their butts off to make sure that the right thing is done. Occasionally a very sneaky lawyer will figure out how to work the system over, like through continuation rules, but this is very unusual.

Here's an idea... (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584750)

Fine a submitter for filing a frivolous patent, or patent squatting. Betcha that backlog clears out overnight. But in the meantime, I want to patent a method of diffusing particles across a semi-permeable membrane and then sue people for breathing. brb.

Only option (1)

TheCybernator (996224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584754)

outsource to India and China

Re:Only option (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584782)

And outsource detailed plans for our "best" ideas while we're at it.

Simple solution -- working prototypes (5, Interesting)

Derling Whirvish (636322) | more than 6 years ago | (#22584996)

There is a simple solution to the problem of too many patents to examine. Go back to requiring a working prototype. You would have to supply working source code for any software patent. Business "methods" patents would not be acceptable unless you could demonstrate the method actually in use.

So Arthur C. Clarke would not have been able to patent the idea of geostationary satellites. He didn't so nothing was lost. Were current patent procedures in place in the late 40s, most certainly a patent troll would have patented it. But what harm is there in forcing comeone to actually get a satellite to geostationary orbit before allowing a patent? It would certainly encourage research and development rather than litigation and argument. Forcing Edison to actually get a filament that worked before granting him a patent on the light bulb worked out for the better, rather than allowing him to patent the "idea" of using an electrically heated filament to generate light. If he had gotten the patent without the working model he could have sat back and just sued anyone implementing electic lights for the next 17 years. It would have set back progress tremendously.

Karma (1)

Goalie_Ca (584234) | more than 6 years ago | (#22585224)

Everyone should tag this karma. Cause and effect at its very best.

well, what did you expect ? (1)

l3v1 (787564) | more than 6 years ago | (#22586050)

I mean, if anyone and his neighbor's dog can file a patent about practically anything, how would anyone expect that the paperwork involved in dealing with the sh*tloads of useless crap would descrease ? Only one solution I'd see working would be a stricter and saner regularization of the patent submission process, not to increase the processing of the submitted crap, but to decrease the number of submissions that are potentially junk from the beginning but they still have to wate insane amount of hours and people to judge those submissions.

Good! (1)

colinfahey (1246882) | more than 6 years ago | (#22586102)

I hope the system becomes clogged to the point where a new patent application made, say, next year, would theoretically be granted at a time just beyond the time of the anticipated singularity!

Like copyright, patents hold back innovation. Those protections need to be abolished. It's impossible for an intelligent person to create anything new anymore without unwittingly re-inventing the things covered by existing patents.

I wish someone would create software to generate arbitrary, valid patents -- millions at a time -- and pay to submit them all. I think society should essentially wage a "Denial Of Service" attack on the US Patent Office. The "protection" of patents has cost society enough.

If patents are allowed to continue, then make it like insurance: The patent holder pays a premium that is equal to 10% of the desired protection amount, EVERY YEAR, for a maximum of 10 years. The patent holder can change the protection amount each year. However, after the patent holder pays a premium for the year, ANYBODY can pay that same premium amount directly to the patent holder to use the patent. Also, ANYBODY can pay 10X the premium amount to forcefully acquire the patent. So, a patent holder is forced to pay to keep a patent alive. If they want to protect themselves from having the patent bought out from under them, they'll make sure they're actually making money from the patent before paying for patent protection. The ongoing payments make it painful to hang on to a patent, while still making confident and profitable ventures continue to be protected for up to 10 years. The ability to buy out a patent based on 10X the patent-holder's desired protection level, combined with the fact the the patent-holder is forced to pay an annual premium that is 10% of the desired protection level, keeps the pressure on the patent-holder to set a protection level that actually reflects their commitment to the patent. There is an annual auction-like quality, but by forcing the patent holder to sacrifice 10% of that auction price to keep the patent we prevent the patent-holder from blocking others from using the patent. If another company has the ability to make significantly more profit on the patent, they can buy the patent outright for a known amount (10X what the current patent holder is willing to pay out each year).

The exponential fee schedule is another promising idea, but the dynamic range of patent values might make it impossible to choose an exponent that is fair for both ends of the dynamic range. Assessing the value of a patent is too likely to lead to corruption.

As far as protecting the "little guy" inventor, I think they should simply keep their idea secret until they can find a buyer. If the buyer is able to clone the idea merely by looking at a prototype, then the idea wasn't worth protecting. If a person can replicate the idea simply by hearing a general description, then the idea was not worth protecting. The little guy inventor should only be protected if the idea cannot be replicated after observing a demonstration of the idea -- and, therefore, the inventor should be able to safely negotiate payment from someone who CAN pay the patent protection money each year. The currently infinite protection, and zero barrier to entry, afforded by today's patent system -- to protect the little guy -- is needlessly costing society a lot.

I don't think society needs patents or copyrights to ensure the continuation of innovation. I think entrepreneurs should shift their focus to producing physical objects and services. It seems like a step backwards from the information age to the industrial age, but information production and transfer is becoming easier. Real manufacturing and services (communication, distributed storage, banking, etc) are immune to copying.

I don't think the inventors and creators of our society feel protected by patents and copyrights. I think the current generation of would-be inventors and creators feel *threatened* and *stifled* by the deadly intellectual IEDs congesting the world of ideas. Isn't it sad that companies have to develop or acquire patents simply to use a counter ammunition for the inevitable time that they are sued for some obvious future innovation that they independently develop? The broader and more obvious the patent the better. One-click shopping (Amazon)! Two-finger touch screen gestures (Apple iPhone)! Automatic activation of applet on web page (forced users to click on Applets to start interacting)! E-mail to PDA (RIM/Blackberry was sued)! Concept of bridging Internet phone to local phone network (Skype was sued)! etc!

Also, I think patent-submitters should pay a substantial fine if their patents prove to be unsupportable in court. A slightly lower fine could be levied of the patent application is rejected due to being obvious.

mod 3own (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22586112)

turd-suckingly There are some Mutated testicle of Like they a8e Come your own towel in series of internal Systems. The Gay AAproximately 90%

It's not the number of lawyers its the database(s) (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22586436)

Actually PTO is trying to throw bodies at a problem which stems from gross IT inefficiencies. Utilizing multiple customized databases that was designed for storing gif scans of photographs and not streamlining workflow processes is a big reason why it takes so long for a patent to process. It doesn't matter if they hire 10,000 or 100,000 lawyers and phd's, if you have print from one database in order to re-type the same information into another database only to then have to e-mail your supervisor that you need his approval, just says volumes about the mismanagement of your tax dollars. I can't believe that I went to grad school to deal with this frustrating process. I'm outta here at the next hiring season.

How to clear the backlog (3, Insightful)

pokerdad (1124121) | more than 6 years ago | (#22586482)

Step 1: Hire more patent officers.

Step 2: Raise the price of applying to meet costs of #1.

Step 3: Once backlog is clear create stricter application process.

Step 4: Based on number of man hours required for new process introduced in 3, raise prices again.

Step 5: Review demand now that it costs more and is less likely to success; adust staffing to meet new demand.

How many Patent examiners does it take to screw... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 6 years ago | (#22586684)

...in a light bulb?

Hmmmm, I don't think they know how to do that, no matter how many.

They seems to persist with in the darkness of believing software and business methods are of patent-able subject matter.

Three step patenting process (2, Insightful)

Rsriram (51832) | more than 6 years ago | (#22586748)

1. Preprocess - outsource this process to eliminate frivilous and easy to eliminate claims. Speed up the next two steps.

2. Process the patent applications.

3. Validate - check, verify, grant.

Whoa... most of you don't understand business! (1)

RaigetheFury (1000827) | more than 6 years ago | (#22587002)

Let me make this clear. Patents are a good concept but poorly implemented. They are NOT doing what they were intended to do. When you attack a problem why are so many of you attacking the end result (backlog, frivilous patents etc) instead of attacking the root of the problem, the requirements for a patent. Lets explore the main types of patents Tangible Non-Tangible You don't get more general than that. Tangible is a patent on something that you can touch feel, the other is business processes etc. Non Tangible would be a method, like one click and that whole mess. I do not believe, for ANY reason, that a non-tangible patent should be permitted. PERIOD. Great! You came up with a great idea for clicking a button and paying your shopping cart online. Um... that's not really innovation, that's just convenience. However, if you INVENT a new technology... lets say you invented FLASH... thats different. That is a new technology. Not a method. I believe software patents on software (your actual code NOT methods) should be allowed. You spend 5 years developing a new point of sale system that intelligently communicates with most current hardware without too much configuration. YES that should be patentable.. but NOT "Method of making a smart interface that smartly communicates with various other hardware to reduce configuration time". If we limit Patents to tangible things the backlog will go away. The lawsuits will mostly go away. The patent trolls will mostly go away because instead of just thinking of an idea, they have to have something to show the idea in reality. NDA's, privacy agreements etc all take care of the rare situations where people with great ideas are looking for funding but worried about their ideas being taken. You cannot sit on an idea. People MUST be able to move forward with it.
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