The patent office

Orszag quotes the president bragging that "the Patent Office receives more than 80 percent of patent applications electronically," but notes that "these applications are then manually printed out, re-scanned, and entered into an outdated case management system. The average processing time for a patent is roughly three years."

That';s from Ezra Klein.


So who the fuck is in charge of the patent office? Could it be the President? Where's the freaking Change?

The new Commissioner David Kappos is former IBM, and preliminary indications are that there will be improvements during his tenure.

If you actually read the President's remarks from last January, it's clear that he was not "bragging". On the contrary, he was giving an example of a problem. He went on to explain that he had appointed the government's first CIO and CTO to upgrade our out-of-date IT systems, created a website where citizens can monitor every IT project, etc.


manually printed out, re-scanned

This part looks like a kudgy way to deal with the improved electronic filing system. The reason the old electronic filing system sucked so bad for the users is that it required the user to format things in a way that the patent office's system could easily accept. They basically gave up on this and let the user submit things using pdfs, but this required the manual printing out, and re-scanning that looks so silly.

Odd that the USPTO should be so backward on this front when in other ways they are so innovative, such as the Peer-to-Patent project and their recent partnership with Google to release 10 terabytes of patent data for public download and analysis.

But generally, this is pretty standard in government offices. Scanned documents are par for the course.

The three year backlog has nothing to do with the poor IT/case management system, it's just a matter of an inability to get enough Examiners to handle all the incoming applications. The Patent Office has generally made a "profit" every year and then had its extra revenues diverted to the general fund, which has not been helpful. It looks likely that will change soon and the USPTO will get to keep its own fee income.

They have a big problem with turnover, but the attitude at the USPTO has really gotten better since Kappos took over as director and I am pretty confident he will improve things dramatically. With increased fee revenue, more Examiners, and an expansion of the system that allows Examiners to live in places other than the D.C. metro area, it should be possible to stop the application backlog from growing and maybe even reduce it.

Every President since the end of WWII comes to office claiming they'll be the one to create streamlined government. Obama added a CIO, Bush introduced HBS principals. Clinton, Reagan and Eisenhower all formed high-profile commissions. I'll wait and see.

Erza Klein amended his article. Obama was actually criticizing the patent office. He's the one who originally mentioned the ridiculous of it.

But like your first commenter said, where's the change? I know of no change in the Patent Office.

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