Patently-O is reporting that patent filings at the PTO are down much more significantly than previously reported by Acting Director John Doll.
A reader of that blog reports that PTO General Counsel James Toupin, speaking at a conference last week sponsored by USC Law School, stated that “[n]ew patent filings are down 16% so far in 2009.” Prof. Crouch attributes this to a confluence of four issues:
(1) downturn in the US economy reducing cash-on-hand and a strong dollar discouraging foreign investment; (2) increased PTO bureaucracy making it more difficult to obtain a patent with a valuable scope; (3) increased patentability standards making it more difficult to obtain patent protection; and (4) decreased potential returns in litigation.
There is nothing the PTO can do about the first issue, but it can certainly take a hard look at (2) and (3). Issue (4) is the result of the work of the Federal Circuit and other courts.
Patently-O is further reporting that all legal and technical studies at the PTO have been suspended because of “budget constraints.”
As I noted earlier, these numbers affect more than the PTO’s current budget. They also have a significant effect on the PTO’s future budgets for years to come. Moreover, they have a strong effect on the economy and the US’s position as an innovation leader (circular, I know). Further efforts to weaken patents by Congress, the Federal Circuit, and the PTO could have even more devastating effects on patent filings.
Is this a perfect storm to end the golden age of innovation and patenting?