@Microchip_Manny: there are many patent examiners dispersed throughout US (many work from home offices) in the USPTO system. How ever, very seldom you get a F2F meeting with a patent examiner and they don't encourage it. But I agree with you, the current patenting system in the US is NOT startup friendly.
I am split on the extension of provisionals; it may give you the secrecy you need for longer but you also risk the rejection of the related utility patent that may jeopardize your product. While provisionals may help startups stay afloat longer without having to shell out more $$ for utility patents, it is not a substitute in the interim. Claims which are not considered in the provisionals (even if you write them) are what makes the distinction in a utility between your product and the next guy's, so the quicker you get to utility filing, the better off you are.
Dr. MP Divakar
The problem relates to the past practice of paper documents, obsolete methods of image storage, an arcane system that uses lawyers, the lowest of the low, in spite of their technical ability. The practice of law is worse than Alzheimer's disease at destroying brain cells. With 256 bit security systems, almost infinite electronic document storage capacity, and very effective document registry and filing software there is almost no reason for a patent office as we know it (6 or so patents so far). ie: 1. Have an idea that can be described in some detail and email the text only application to a federal patent repository under a preregistered moniker system (already in use there). 2. Use key word analysis to classify the application and search for rejectable commonalities. Inform applicant of rejectable conflicts without human intervention to give almost immediate, one hour max, feedback. 3. Applicant now can revise to avoid rejection, prepare drawings or restate idea, do prototypes, etc, until a satisfactory first draft patent applied for ruling can be made with little human intervention. 4. Final approval in 24 hours. This is no more insane than the present system!!!
One simple patent law fix to help start-ups is to extend the amount of time that can elapse before needing to take a provisional application to full application from the 1 year to say three years: 1 year to develop the prototype, and 2 years to raise the money to fund the full patent applications and take the product to market, especially given these hard economic times.
As for the backlog it is indicative of an ineffective patent system. I mean why does all applications have to be processed in Washington, D.C. only. Innovation actually happens outside of D.C. Ideally, there should be a proportionate number of patent court systems (i.e. patent processing centers) setup in the nation as there are courts to handle federal law case, with the patent courts placed appropriate in cities where the most applicants apply from. At a minimum there should be at least four courts to cover the four U.S timezones. But if there are more patent courts and they are placed strategically, the examiners can actually meet in person with the true inventors and speed up the examination process and hopefully eliminate the backlog all together.
Certainly an interesting mix of companies and individuals on both sides of the issue. Of course many of the comments are correct on both sides as well - we need reform to the current patent system which was not, and is not, designed to adequately handle the current (or the future) state of technology, and we need to do something to clear the current backlog of patents. But we really need to see that "clear discussion" of the ramifications of the currently proposed changes, rather than just pushing for change because something is needed.
Perhaps we can start with adding to the Patent office new equipment, improved software, and more people to attack the back-log. I would really like a better process for applying for a patent as well. The current process takes months of creative writing with lawyers and the inventors and then is stalled at the gate in the Patent Office. Perhaps we could encourage our elected officials to address this issue not with knee jerk legislation but with a well thought out plan to fix what we have and improve upon the legal side of patents with careful attention to the details. There needs to be fairness for both the small and large patent holders to avoid the deep pockets winning litigation over the little guy.
Another Congressional session will end with no progress on reform, the USPTO will continue to have a hopeless backlog of mostly worthless patent applications that they are nevertheless obliged to eventually process, even though most will be denied.
There has to be a better way!
We are a 100% Practicing Entity making products: we never delay patents. For example, the 8-year pendency example I had in mind in the quote was a patent that was not even examined for 5 years, and was 3 years in diligent prosecution. The USPTO has been crediting us with extra years beyond the normal 20 on these patents because of their delays, but it doesn't help to wait 8 years for a patent, be unable to fund a product, but get extra years beyond 20 years.
Our patent law and system has evolved over the years. With all the talk about the need for reform, I have yet to see a clear discussion of the implications of the various proposed changes – and there are there are credible inventors on both sides of the proposed patent reform legislation. The law of unintended consequences does have a way of biting back - especially when clever people (inventors) are involved who are motivated to game the system. I question claims that new products must wait to be introduced for 8 years because the patents have not yet been issued. Patent applications are published 18 months after submission so the revolutionary new product concepts have been visible to the public for 6 years. Is the real reason for the delay in launching products that the inventors fear they may be infringing a competitor's patents and they want issued patents as protection (which of course might be overturned in court)?