MIXED SIGNALS FROM THE USPTO? During February's Town Hall Meeting in Chicago, the USPTO was putting forth arguments in support of the continuation restriction proposal. One of the main reasons for restricting continuations was that the purported excess of continuation applications was overwhelming patent examiners, thus slowing production.
Most practitioners rightfully questioned the extent to which continuation applications delay overall examination. The USPTO has been touting the hiring of 1,000 examiners over the coming year as evidence that the USPTO is tackling the pendency problem. Also, the encouragement of electronic filing and other initiatives are being promoted additional tools for reducing the amount of time applications wallow in the Office.
So it was somewhat surprising that, during the Town Hall Meeting, the USPTO claimed that the hiring of additional examiners would not solve production problems, and that restricting continuations was necessary as a result. In fact, the USPTO made a pretty strong point of this, as shown by one of the Power-Point slides provided at the meeting:
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office plans to double its examiners' staff over the next five years to speed the application process, the office's director said Friday.
Jon Dudas, undersecretary of Commerce for intellectual property, says hiring 1,000 additional examiners annually over the next five years will reduce the backlog of patent applications.