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No Time for Gridlock at USPTO
Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos
In an era where bitter partisan divide can often inhibit action in Washington, one need look no further than the United States patent system to observe how government can work to provide real and meaningful results for Americans. Since the enactment of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act—bipartisan legislation signed into law by President Obama last September—USPTO in cooperation with our stakeholder community has been launching transformative initiatives to improve the way Americans innovate, and the way the USPTO handles those innovations. And before the ink of the President's signature had even dried, we hit the ground running in rebuilding our intellectual property system from the ground up.
We have already implemented seven provisions of this huge federal legislation—all on time—and we are in the process of getting draft rules out for ten more right now. We're building out a dynamic IT infrastructure and we've been hiring more examiners to aggressively tackle our patent backlog. We've submitted two studies to Congress, analyzing rights available to manufacturers (prior user rights) and international protections for small businesses. And just yesterday, I joined Chief Judge Randall Rader of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and Chief Judge James Smith of the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences to welcome 14 new administrative jurists to the Board. These new judges will help the Office aggressively tackle the backlog of appeals waiting at our Board.
More generally, our Board will be instrumental in shaping a new in-house review process for challenging granted patents—a process that is much faster and less expensive than litigation. For both our post-grant review process and our inter partes review process, we’re building state of the art procedures that will balance the interests of third party challengers and patent owners—all within a 12-month time frame.
We have also launched an examination acceleration program (Track I) that is allowing patent applications to be reviewed in 12 months, and offers small businesses a discount on this service. We have already started putting out office actions and even issuing patents under Track I, which is enabling new technologies, new industries and new markets to blossom quicker than ever before. And we’ve pushed our unexamined patent application backlog down to about 660,000.
Our Trademarks team continues to perform at world-best level, handling record numbers of new applications last year, launching a 21st century total quality program that would keep pace with any private sector equivalent, and serving as voice and conduit for US brand-owners small and large, west and east, south and north.
This is action. These are results. The growing, dedicated, professional staff of the USPTO is unquestionably productive and is meeting the challenges before us. Yes, there is much left to do and many challenges ahead. But I simply can’t stress enough that the USPTO is on the move. Even in an era of partisan rifts, government can and is working to advance American industry and American ingenuity.