Wednesday, April 27, 2005

REDUCING BACKLOG MAY TAKE YEARS, BUT CONGRESS LIKES THE IDEA OF POST-GRANT REVIEW: Reducing a backlog of hundreds of thousands of pending patent applications could take several years, despite a budget boost that has enabled the Patent and Trademark Office to hire a record number of examiners this year, PTO director Jon Dudas said Monday.

The current backlog at the USPTO is about 490,000 applications. Dudas said PTO has received a record number of patent applications every year for the past 20 years, but did not begin hiring in record numbers until this year.

PTO received $1.6 billion in FY05, $342 million more than it received in FY04. Dudas said PTO is using much of that increase to hire 860 new examiners this year, for a total of about 4,400.

Judiciary ranking member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said lawmakers should consider modifying the process to allow for patent challenges "before costly, highly technical litigation is required."

Judiciary Intellectual Property Subcommittee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said there is a "high degree of agreement" among stakeholders on the need for a post-grant review process.

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