Patently-O has received some data on recent patent filings showing that they continue to trend downward
. The post blames the economic crisis, though it admits that other factors (such as the courts restricting the most egregious problems with the patent system, as well as the Patent Office itself increasing quality standards) may have had an impact as well. What I find odd, though, is the claim in the post that this downward trend in patents is a "crisis." The complaint is that since the USPTO is funded by application fees, seeing a drop makes it more difficult to fund the USPTO. But, that leaves out the simple fact that if you're receiving fewer applications, then the Patent Office shouldn't need as many resources either. Considering the large number of bad patents that got through over the years, and the resulting flood of applications from others hoping to strike it rich by gaining monopolies on obvious ideas, it should be seen as a good thing
that applications are finally dropping. If anything, we should be wondering why they're not dropping more. Patents were supposed to be given out in the rarest of circumstances, when other incentives weren't enough. Somewhere along the way, those who controlled the patent system seemed to forget this and lose their way. Bringing back a sense of sanity to the system can only be a good thing for those who want to encourage innovation (those who make money off of the patent system, obviously, tend to have a different opinion -- but I'd rather focus on encouraging innovation, rather than encouraging patent attorneys making exorbitant salaries).