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Letter to the editor: Quality problem starts at U.S. patent office

4/18/2008 04:00 PM EDT
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StuRat
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re: Letter to the editor: Quality problem starts at U.S. patent office
StuRat   4/24/2008 5:48:50 PM
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I applied for a patent examiner position 2 years ago, and was put into the system. Even though I was a military officer with a Top Secret clearance, I had to endure the full bureaucracy of background checks for employment status. After my first interview in my home state, I didn't hear from the office for 6 months. After repeated attempts, I found that the original material was misplaced and I had to start over. I went to the USPTO site for an interview and received a job offer. I considered accpeting, but after comparing the cost of living in the DC area, the level of compensation for an 25-year experienced engineer with 15 patents, military security clearance, and the red-tape of the application process, I opted for a private industry placement, albeit in another indusry. The potential rewards for a prospective examiner don't line up with the economic viability of an experienced engineer. If Director Dudas wants to improve the examination process, he needs to start with the recruiting and compensation for quality examiner prospects, not just entry-level engineers with no industry experience.

bidare
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re: Letter to the editor: Quality problem starts at U.S. patent office
bidare   4/19/2008 4:50:44 AM
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1. Quality of basic research has come down. 2. People take easier route to go for patents than publications. 3. It is this fact that has increased the number of patent applications. 4. Corporates also looks for patent and or filing of patents as a must and doesn't bother on quality and possible completeness 5. People relay on patent attorneys to make the quality assessment not them selves. 6. Individuals use patent as insurance to their carrier 7. Corporate use it for trade, hence numbers matters Hence quality goes down.

fundamentals
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re: Letter to the editor: Quality problem starts at U.S. patent office
fundamentals   4/18/2008 6:49:48 PM
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While I agree with the author that the average quality of the patent examiners may have declined, I totally disagree on the nature of the problem. The patent office issues frivilous (and even ridiculous) patents. It is much too easy to get a patent on an idea that is obvious to any expert in the field. Easily 90% of all patent applications fall into this category. And the patent office does not care, they are happy to issue a patent and let the courts resolve it later if it comes to that. I kind of suspect that the author of this article may have bumped into one of the few more competent examiners, who does not automatically issue a new patent to fill his quota. Of course, the problem reported by the author may be real, and if so it is a rare problem at the patent office. The opposite problem however is rampant.

bcarso
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re: Letter to the editor: Quality problem starts at U.S. patent office
bcarso   4/18/2008 6:47:12 PM
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(note that my response applies to the original letter, not to Hoffberg's immediately above)

bcarso
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re: Letter to the editor: Quality problem starts at U.S. patent office
bcarso   4/18/2008 6:45:27 PM
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Agree! I would add that, for a good deal of the patents that do get through, the examiner has missed great chunks of prior art. This allows companies to secure ostensible protection and, if they have deep enough pockets, cynically drive less well-heeled competitors away through sheer intimidation. An alternative to secrecy with careful documentation has become for me a policy of potentially just disclosing things in fora and blogs, so at least precedence can be established. The drawbacks are obvious, but the advantages are 1) no one can patent the idea, or if they manage to it can get knocked down, 2) the informed readership can point out that the idea is not unprecedented and maybe even protected already. A potential third advantage is getting a little publicity and maybe some work ;)

Hoffberg
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re: Letter to the editor: Quality problem starts at U.S. patent office
Hoffberg   4/18/2008 6:44:40 PM
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It is simplistic to simply blame patent examiners for the PTO examination issues. In large part, the current PTO backlog of unexamined patent application stems from ill conceived proposed rule changes which prejudice applicants rights, with dubious benefits to the PTO itself or society at large. Likewise, substantive changes to patent practice resulting from court decisions are frequent, leading to changes in strategy, leading to new filings. Of course there are examiners who either "don't understand" or "don't agree", but this is less of a problem than unrealistic or undue PTO policies imposed on the examiners. One solution to the problem is to grade the PTO not only on errors made in issuing patents which are invalid, but also errors in rejecting patents that are worthy. Only then can a proper balance be struck. Certain large companies publicly associated with calls for patent reform are those who have significant market power, and therefore tend to gain less from the patent system than their own resulting costs. Given the long-term nature of patents, we must as a society balance the ability of productive elements to create products and deploy services that people can use and benefit from, against the incentives to create the next generation of those products and services, a disproportionate part of which come from small entities which do not have quarterly reporting pressures. Dismantling of the patent office is untenable. A patent or patent application is treated as property, thus providing an efficient way to transfer rights embodied in them between an "innovator", often without the ability to execute, to a commercial entity in need of ever growing profits. This, in turn allows each type of entity to exploit its strengths.

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