Patent Office Proposes Speed Lane (And Slow Lane) For Patents; Treating The Symptom, Not The Disease
from the that-won't-solve-anything dept
One of the big complaints with the US Patent and Trademark Office is the insane length that it takes these days to get a patent approved. It can be many years at this point. The USPTO has set a goal to help deal with that problem, but so far all we’ve seen are things like getting examiners to approve more patents. That doesn’t help at all. The real problem isn’t the patent approval process, it’s the patent system itself. The whole setup of the patent system is wrong. If it worked as intended, and was used as a tool to promote innovation, you would see just a small number of patents approved. Right now, it lets through tons of patents that have no impact on progress whatsoever, except perhaps to hinder it. But because of massive abuse of the system, the response has been to flood the system with even more patent applications. The system of having random patent examiners determine what is and what is not both new and non-obvious doesn’t scale.
The latest plan from the PTO isn’t going to help matters either. The idea is to set up a speed lane and a slow lane for patents. The speed lane means that you pay more and your patent gets reviewed faster (within a year). The middle lane is the same as it is today… except (oops) you now get pushed down a bit because of all the big spenders in the fast lane above you. Then there’s the slow lane, which is cheap, but don’t expect to see your patent for ages. Apparently they might add some setup with the slow lane that also separates payments out, so you can submit the patent, but later decide to not follow through on it, without having to pay as much. It sounds sort of like a parallel to today’s provisional patent system.
Of course, none of this will help. It just means that companies with more money to spend will jump to the fast lane, clogging that fast lane, and lengthening the wait times for those who don’t want to spend that much money. It’s difficult to see how that helps. The real issue is vastly cutting back on what is considered patentable. Move way from having companies feeling the need to patent anything and everything and get them back to focusing on competing in the marketplace. If there must be a patent system, let it be limited to the rare cases where there is actual proof that the gov’t granted monopoly makes sense (if those exist) and where there’s no likelihood of independent invention coming up with the same thing at about the same time (a key point that should determine obviousness).