by Mike Masnick
Wed, Oct 10th 2007 4:30pm
It's a pretty common refrain from folks who are against patent reform that all the problems of the patent system could be easily solved by hiring some more patent examiners. Even some people who do support patent reform think that hiring more examiners would help deal with the problems of the systems. Last week, the GAO, who we often agree with in its analysis, came out with a report also suggesting that hiring more patent examiners, and now existing patent examiners are agreeing with the analysis. The problem, though, is that this hides the real issue. The patent office isn't inundated with such a huge backlog of patents because it doesn't have enough patent examiners -- but because the system is fundamentally broken. As the courts have continually expanded the reach (and value) of patents, it's simply encouraged more and more applications to be filed, no matter how ridiculous. Hiring more patent examiners doesn't solve that. The real trick to solving the problems the patent office is facing is in realizing that patent examiners don't scale. You don't just hire more as more patents are being filed -- you figure out why more patents are being filed and if there's a better way to do things. That means looking at the fundamental nature of the patent system and realizing how far the current patent system has drifted from those ideals -- and then solving those problems. If they did that, they'd realize that they probably don't need more patent examiners -- they just need a better patent system.
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