New PTO Director David Kappos was the keynote speaker at the Intellectual Property Owners (IPO) annual meeting in Chicago. Kappos set forth a bold agenda for reform at the PTO.
Specifically, Kappos noted that although the Bush Administration had touted a 96% error free rate in examination quality, he believes that there is still a long way to go toward improving overall patent quality.
Next, he set forth the following pendency goals:
- ten months from application to first office action, down from the current 25.6 months pendency;
- twenty months from application to final action, down from 32.2 months;
- backlog of 300,000 applications, from the current level of more than 1.2 million;
- appeals pendency dropping from the current seven months to three months; and
- reexamination pendency reduced from 25 to 12 months.
In an update on the PTO rules litigation, Kappos noted that the case is now captioned Tafas v. Kappos. While at IBM, he had expressed opposition to the rules and noted how unpopular they are. Given that they are currently involved in litigation at the Federal Circuit, he did not want to comment further. There are larger issues involved than his personal opposition to their implementation.
He has created a taskforce of senior members of the PTO examiners’ union to determine if there is another way to monitor examiner productivity other than the current “count” system that would give examiners the time necessary to do a thorough examination. He also has plans to create a nationwide workforce of patent examiners who work from their homes.
Kappos also spoke of making the PTO more transparent by making more of its workings public. The PTO will hold a roundtable on this issue at a later date.
He and the Obama Administration are continuing to push for patent reform. They believe that the time is now ripe for reform.
Finally, he noted that the biggest problem facing the PTO is the projected $200 million shortfall for fiscal year 2010 that begins next month. Not only does the PTO need Congress to codify the end of fee diversion, it also needs to give the PTO the flexibility to set and adjust fees based on its workload. The projected deficit could have a large impact on his plans an initiatives for the future.
It’s great to finally have a director who understands the importance of patents. Kappos is certainly saying the right things so far. Let’s hope he’s able to carry them out.