HideTechdirt is off for the long weekend! We'll be back with our regular posts tomorrow.
HideTechdirt is off for the long weekend! We'll be back with our regular posts tomorrow.

Patent Examiners Don't Scale

from the in-case-you-were-wondering dept

Almost all of the publicly discussed plans for patent reform tend to focus on a few minor changes to the system and then dumping a lot more money into hiring more examiners. Unfortunately, such a solution doesn't work when people don't want to be patent examiners. With the continued growth in patent applications due to the fact that companies feel they need to patent everything just in case, and the layer of complexity in many new patents -- the backlog keeps getting bigger and bigger -- and with it, the pressure on existing patent examiners. In fact, Slashdot is pointing to an article that notes patent examiners are fleeing the Patent Office, as they feel that they're being overworked. They're given impossible quotas by managers who don't seem to understand how much work they need to do. While Jon Dudas, the patent office director, seems to brush off the concern by suggesting this is a minor "management" problem that can be sorted out, it actually seems to be indicative of a much bigger issue: patent examiners don't scale. The method for granting patents is out of date and can't handle the patent system we've set up. If we actually follow Dudas' own reform plan, which would grants patents to those who are "first to file" rather than "first to invent," it will actually make the problem even worse, because it will make companies file as many patents as quickly as possible without doing all of the necessary research. So, Dudas' big plan for patent reform is to get more money to hire more patent examiners just as he has a labor problem on his hands -- and at the same time, overload them even more. Isn't it time we started looking at real solutions for patent reform that recognize the fact that the current system obviously can't scale? This certainly suggests that a system of peer reviewed patents that allowed various experts in the field to weigh in on patents could work better. Other ideas include a more "open source" approach -- where patent applications are published much earlier along with an easy way for anyone in the public to object to the patent and provide prior art. These are solutions that distribute the work outwards and aren't relying on the same patent examiner system that obviously cannot handle the load created by our existing approach to patents.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Mark, 30 Jul 2005 @ 7:37am

    Patent reform

    Here's my simple plan for patent reform: the patent application fee doubles every time you submit within a calendar year.

    So let's say when you file for your first patent, you pay a $100 fee. Patent #2 -- if submitted in the same calendar year -- would cost you $200, and #3 would be $400. By the time a company files its tenth patent in a single year, it would be paying $25,600 for the privilege. Two more patents would push it past the $100,000 barrier.

    Companies still abusing the privilege? Increase the initial cost (which will then be doubled and redoubled again). Repeat until two things happen: a) companies stop trying to patent ideas that have been widespread since the dawn of time, and b) the patent office has enough money to hire the entire population of Bangladesh as examiners, if that's what it takes to catch up with the backlog and do some proper research.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown for basic formatting. (HTML is not supported.)
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.