Notes from the USPTO on Patent Examination and Backlog

On Tuesday USPTO Commissioner for Patents John Doll spoke at a meeting of the Association of Corporate Counsel.  Word from an attendee is that Commissioner Doll provided a very brief – but insightful – statement about the expected impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in KSR v. Teleflex on the USPTO patent examination process.  In the meeting, he expressed the opinion that KSR will allow examiners to apply their basic education and “common sense” when issuing obviousness rejections.  He also expects examiners’ reliance on KSR to decrease the patent allowance rate, which now is at about 50%.

Commissioner Doll also addressed the patent application “backlog” problem and described steps that the USPTO is taking to fix it.  He stated that the USPTO receives about 144,000 patent applications per year, but there are still about 700,000 applications awaiting examination.  To address this issue, the USPTO plans to hire 1200 new Examiners per year in upcoming years.   It also permits approximately 1000 Examiners to work at home, by telecommuting, in 14 states to help improve recruitment and retention. 

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