The Patent Public Advisory Committee (PAC) was created to advise Congress on the policies, goals, performance, budget and user fees of the USPTO with respect to patents. The Committee is charged with preparing an annual report that is submitted to the Secretary of Commerce, the President, and the Committees on the Judiciary of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The 2007 Report is focused on "practical challenges facing both the USPTO and the patent system of which it is a part." Specifically, broad categories of issues addressed were (1) patent quality, (2) pendency and (3) flexibility.
The Committee believes that "Quality" is dependent upon five essential components. These are: (a) providing a meaningful definition of quality; (b) accessing the best prior art; (c) accessing the best information available to the applicant; (d) assessing the appropriate level of examination resources necessary for highly complex applications; and (e) attracting and retaining the most qualified workforce.Pendency:
Here, PAC places a large share of blame on the applicants:
Candidly, a further cause of ever-increasing pendency is clearly applicants’ behavior itself. From the filing of the nth continuation application, to the presentation of an excessive number of claims, to the late filing of information disclosure statements (IDS), to the failure to file any illuminating information, or the inclusion of large numbers of less relevant references in such statements, applicants severely and directly impact an examiner’s ability to perform focused, timely and quality examinations. Such behavior must be brought under control in a manner that is fair to applicants.To battle existing pendency problems, the PAC report provides some recommendations including exploration of a "market-based examination model," and granting "full faith and credit" to foreign search reports, stating that the "USPTO set a goal of achieving full utilization of foreign prior art searches, and expanded IPC search capability within six months of the date of this report."
The Committee strongly recommended the adoption of legislation permanently ending diversion of user fees for non-USPTO expenditures. Additionally, the Committee strongly recommended that Congress pass legislation giving the USPTO authority to set and adjust patent fees.
Hot on the heels of the PTO's announcement that allowance rates have dropped, the Committee projected out the loss in revenue from issue/maintenance fees, and found that, by FY 2013, the PTO would be short around $1.1 billion.
Of course, there is much more in this report, and it definitely qualifies as a "must-read" for anyone interested in U.S. patent policy heading into 2008.
View/download the report here (link)