Upgrading the U.S.A.'s Innovation Infrastructure

Jan. 9, 2009
Chamber of Commerce delivers blueprint to improve U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

He campaigned with a message of change, and now that President Barack Obama has taken office, he does so with high hopes from many that real change will occur. Among the government entities that will require the Obama administration's attention is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC). The center claims reforms are needed to modernize the agency.

"With our economy in crisis, America needs a world-class patent office that effectively serves the innovators who are turning ideas into full-fledged inventions, creating jobs and meeting the public's needs," says Brad Huther, senior advisor of the GIPC.

Not only is the center calling for change, but it has also released a list of recommendations to spur that change. The recommendations present possible solutions to address 11 areas, such as improving the quality of U.S. patents, improving the timeliness of administrative actions, strengthening the patent office's relationship with the user community, and enhancing the efficiency of the examination process through reforms of examiner and applicant incentives.

The GIPC has assembled "a bipartisan panel of experts to make thoughtful recommendations about how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office," explains Thomas J. Donohue, president of the Chamber of Commerce, in a report that contains the panel's work and recommendations.

The 30-page report outlines the 11 issues and provides possible solutions for each. For example, the report points to inadequate resources within the patent office to address a large backlog of applications at a time of record filings. Possible solutions include "increasing user fees as necessary to fund critical improvements in patent examination quality and timeliness and advocating for a permanent legislative end to future fee diversion."

Also at issue is the retention of patent examiners. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has an attrition rate that is "significantly higher" than counterpart offices, such as the European Patent Office, the report states. A long list of possible solutions includes providing work flexibility to increase job satisfaction, revising the retirement plan, evaluating hiring criteria to ensure the hiring of quality individuals who will stay, and improving communication between management and examiners.

The complete report is available at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce GIPC Web site, www.theglobalipcenter.com.

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