Obama Calls The Patent Office Embarrassing For Its Outdated Workflow

from the if-only-they'd-patented-a-smarter-workflow-system dept

Ezra Gildesgame wrote in to let us know that President Obama called the Patent Office “embarrassing” for its archaic workflow process:

“Believe it or not, in our patent office — now, this is embarrassing — this is an institution responsible for protecting and promoting innovation — our patent office receives more than 80 percent of patent applications electronically, then manually prints them out, scans them, and enters them into an outdated case management system.”

Indeed. It is embarrassing (perhaps the fear of patent infringement holds the patent office back from modernizing?), but not quite as embarrassing as the fact that the patent office has not done its job of “protecting and promoting innovation” at all for a very long time. Given the number of questionable and obvious patents that it has approved, and its willingness to create massive patent thickets, it has become clear that the patent office has been much more focused on processing patents, not in promoting innovation.

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Companies: uspto

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Comments on “Obama Calls The Patent Office Embarrassing For Its Outdated Workflow”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Now, I pretty much hate Obama, but the man is totally correct. Hey, when you’re right, you’re right.”

See, and I guess I’m the opposite in every way. I never held any inherent distaste for Obama (after all, it’s not as if he’s any different than the rest, or perhaps even ultimately in charge), but I’m getting awfully sick of these so-called admissions by him and his administration.

I’m sick of hearing about how he recognizes how things are bad…tell me what the fuck you’re going to do about it, idiot! And if the answer is nothing, then don’t take the podium at all. And I’m not talking about mealy mouthed talking points nonsense either. Come up with a solution, tell me what it’s going to be, and then DO IT. I have yet to see or hear one clearly defined action plan that has then been carried out by this guy….

:) says:

The Patent Office is Not Alone


The copyright office is a mystery to me.

I dare anybody find something useful there that will put you at easy about if something is copyrighted or not.

Well there is one useful link I found there and was this one.

Explain a lot of things about copyright and shows how copyfraud is frequent and is overlooked by the government, have a copyright calculator and a tutorial that shows that no audio recordings in the U.S. are in the public domain and even when they go to the public domain states laws will make even more difficult.

Did people know that in NY people can go to jail for copyright infringement?

william (profile) says:

reminds me of the futurama episode, “How Hermes requisitioned his groove back”. In that episode, they have this institution called the “Central Bureaucracy”.

In the building, there is something called “The Master In-Pile”, which is a pile of pneumatic tube capsules about 5-6 floors high…

Hermes was punished for finish sorting out the master in-pile two seconds early, with the notable quote, “a good bureaucrat never finishes early”

detenebrator (profile) says:

Once again, the problem is the President and Congress, not the agency

The problem is that all the money collected by the PTO for those patents goes into the Federal general fund – they only get the maintenance fees, and they don’t even consistently get that. They didn’t actually move away from paper in shoeboxes until they were allowed to actually keep some of the money to fund an electronic modernization program (that was in this century). The crappy scanning system is because Congress stepped in and took the money away again. This is simply political smoke and mirrors, because he knows where the problem is, and it’s not the PTO. They can only do what the President lets them do.

Matt (profile) says:

Re: Once again, the problem is the President and Congress, not the agency

Here here! The patent office is broken, but it is Congress’s (and to a lesser degree, the President’s) fault. Of course, I would go in a different direction than increasing funding or appropriating money for an upgrade. I would abolish inefficient government-granted monopolies. But you are dead on that the power to fix this resides entirely with Congress and the President, not the civil servants plodding through their days at the PTO.

kyle clements (profile) says:

Re: This is a surprise to anyone?

Skeptical Cynic:
“Name one thing other than the Military, and law enforcement that any government can do better, cheaper, and more efficient than private companies.”

um…health care?
Your private system is the most expensive in the world, and it doesn’t cover everyone. Ours costs less, and covers just about everyone. our infant mortality is lower, our life expectancy is longer, our drugs cost less, and it’s free to use.
How would privatization help anyone?

What about Highways, both maintenance and traffic management? I’ve heard some nasty things about the privatized red light cameras reducing amber light duration to maximize profit, at the expense of safety.

Garbage collection?

Power? When electricity was deregulated in my province, the price skyrocketed.

ever read this article?:
“US left behind in technological race to fight climate change.
A speech by the US energy secretary, Steven Chu, shows how America’s unquestioning belief in the free market has held back technological innovation”

The idea that the free market can fix everything is a form of fundamentalism; potentially dangerous, and definitely foolish.

Dementia (profile) says:

Re: Re: This is a surprise to anyone?

Your comment regarding America’s belief in the free market might be accurate, if it was a truly free market causing the issues. As has been noted here many times, the problem is that our “free” market has been legislated into a money generating machine for a number of industries through the use of patents and copyright. There is very little of the free market left. Too many organizations control areas so tightly that there is little, if any competition.

Jeff Shattuck (profile) says:

Barack Obama is a world-class buck-passer. Worse, he doesn’t understand government: the patent office works the way it works because it is a bureaucracy. It is not an efficient organization, and any money it “saves” will be used to maintain its current cost structure. Want proof? Look up Parkinson’s Law, which is best summed up as “work expands to fill the time allotted to do it.” Really people, get a clue. If offends me that Americans are so f—–g ignorant or stupid or both as to believe in a snake oil salesman like Barack. It especially offends me because I’m one of of the dumbf–k Americans who voted for Barack. Argh!

Jeff Shattuck

Anonymous Coward says:

How do you fix the problem?

It’s nice to know that President Obama realizes how big a problem this is.

But how long will it be before he calls in people to address the problem? Obviously, he has connections to Lawrence Lessig, who was instrumental in creating a marketable replacement for Copyright. The Creative Commons system is e-enabled and complete with licensing capabilities equal to Copyright.

Surely a Stanford-turned-Harvard-Law-Professor-who-runs-a-competing-system-to-the-USPTO could actually fix some of these issues and weigh in.

Miguel Moura (profile) says:

What's the problem?

Can’t see what’s the problem with all that… they do reduce the paper going in, but keep a print out for themselves; even if i don’t see the need for printing the entire document, most examiners will need at least a copy of the claims to scribble on…

Obama is making a big deal out of almost nothing…

Spanky says:

If You Can Keep It

Obama’s right. The Patent Office is an embarrassment. Along with the Obama Administration and the United States of America.

When “The President” decides to stand up for the American People, rather than appease the Conservatives and hope the Dems win the next election, maybe I’ll have some respect for him. Until then, I gotta get a haircut.

staff (profile) says:


“Given the number of questionable and obvious patents that it has approved…”

As to the quality of patents; based on court rulings of the last several years, roughly half of all litigated patents are upheld in court. That’s pretty balanced and suggests there is no problem with patent quality. Further, seldom do cases ever make it to trial as the parties settle out of court. The facts do not support the contention that there is a patent quality issue. Still, with almost half a million patent applications filed each year a few are bound to be issued that shouldn’t. Many patent system bashers like to cite silly patents such as a cat exercise patent. However, rarely are they ever an issue because you can’t enforce them without money and you wont get the money unless you have a good patent. All inventors can do with such patents is paper their bathroom walls. Keep in mind it costs the patent holder about as much in a patent suit as it does the accused infringer. Often times it costs more because in multiple defendant cases infringers will band together to share costs. Investors are not stupid. If they don’t have confidence in your patent, they will not invest. It’s that simple. Bad patents do not get funded.

Patent reform is a fraud on America.
Please see http://truereform.piausa.org/ for a different/opposing view on patent reform.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: fraud

based on court rulings of the last several years, roughly half of all litigated patents are upheld in court. That’s pretty balanced and suggests there is no problem with patent quality.

Uh. Really? *HALF* of all challenged patents are struck down, and you find that as evidence of patent quality? Yikes.

Bad patents do not get funded.

Stop. You’re making me laugh.

Matt (profile) says:

Re: fraud

Mike already got to the point that if 50% of the patents coming out of the PTO are bad, then the system is broken. That is _not_ a sign of patent quality.

There are other problems here, though – apparently, 50% of the people willing to litigate their patents had crappy ones. So your concept that such patents are “rarely an issue” is belied by the facts – they are an issue half the time. And they are costly: it costs the defendant in a patent suit a great deal (you are simply lying or misinformed when you assert that it costs a plaintiff “about as much” to sue as it costs the defendant, but we can agree that it costs the defendant a hell of a lot) to defend, even when the suit is frivolous.

Add to that that patents are an unnecessary tax on innovation to begin with (even if the current granting and enforcement mechanisms were improved,) and the system looks pretty broke.

Incidentally, the statements on the website you link to are simply wrong. For instance, the NTP patents were _not_ upheld – most of them were determined to be invalid, and the last of the lot simply evaded reevaluation by a timely settlement. While 70% of patent cases settle before trial, over 90% of other cases do – so patent cases are particularly prone to waste trial resources. Your underlying premise is absolutely correct – patent has become a tool of large enterprises to stifle innovation by small upstarts – but the solution _is_ a wholesale reform starting with improving the quality of patents granted, or abolishing the system altogether.

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