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Testimony at “USPTO Oversight Hearing” on February 27, 2008.

Posted in General Commentary by Jake Ward on February 28, 2008

On February 27, 2008, USPTO Director Jon Dudas spoke before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary in a “USPTO Oversight Hearing”.  His prepared testimony may be found here.  Others who also gave testimony include Robin Nazzaro from the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), Robert Budens, the President of the Patent Office Professional Association (POPA), and Alan Kasper, the First Vice President of the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA).

A USPTO press release relating to the hearing may also be found  here.

A notable quote from the testimony of Mr. Dudas follows:

Mr. Chairman, as we look to the future, we will make every effort to improve on our successful record in fiscal year 2007. Our patent examiners completed over 362,000 patent applications in 2007, the largest number over, while maintaining for the second year in a row an examination compliance rate of 96.5 percent, the highest in a quarter of a century. The allowance rate for patents is currently 44%. This is in contrast to allowance rates in excess of 70% just eight years ago.

Also, over the past few years, the percentage of Board of Patent Appeals decisions in which the examiner is affirmed or affirmed in part has increased from 51% to 69%. Finally, since the pre-appeal brief program was established in midyear 2005, the percentage of applications reviewed under the program in which the examiners action is deemed correct has increased from 45% to 56%.

Allowance rate of 44%?  BPAI affirming rejections 69% of the time?  A seemingly difficult time to be a patent applicant.

One has to wonder whether a dropping allowance rate is reason to celebrate.  We are admittedly biased, but does a dropping allowance rate really mean the patent system is improving?  Or does this just mean that more inventors are being denied their right to patents for their inventions?   

35 U.S.C Section 102:  A person shall be entitled to a patent unless–