Being a fee-funded government entity, it should be no surprise that the PTO would be affected by the recent economic meltdown. But by how much? In a recent interview, acting USPTO Director John Doll stated that the PTO's current projections show that patent filings should drop by a mere 2% in 2009. Other analysis are predicting a 10% drop in filings.
While this drop in filings will hurt the PTO's bottom line at some future date, the more immediate problem for the PTO is the rising rate of abandonment. While the PTO is aware of the problem, it does not appear to be too concerned:
"I talked to a large corporation today and they're going through their patent portfolio to see what's core," said Doll, adding that the company could decide to abandon much of its portfolio. The budget woes mean that the patent office has stopped recruiting examiners, which it had been doing in an effort to clear a tremendous backlog of patent applications.
"We've stopped hiring at this time," said Doll. "If we closed our doors today, it would take us almost two years to clear out our backlog."
"It would be a great time to hire," he added.
Another problem is the steep dropoff in the allowance rate. With the PTO waging wars of attrition against certain applicants, chances are that such applicants will simply walk away from the prosecution instead of fighting repeatedly fruitless (and pointless) battles with the Office.
Read "Patent Office budget hit by financial crisis" (link)
See also Gene Quinn's excellent post "PTO Hiring Freeze and Budget Problems" (link)