On Friday, PTO Director David Kappos, speaking at the 14th Annual Independent Inventors Conference, announced a new intiative to speed examination for small entities that should also have the benefit of reducing the backlog of unexamined applications. The text of Director Kappos’ remarks is available here.
For each unexamined application that a small entity agrees to abandon, the small entity may move another pending application to the front of the examination queue. Details of the program will be forthcoming in the Federal Register, and it will only be available for a limited time.
Kappos also recognized that independent inventors have reservations about a number of provisions in the Patent Reform bills pending in Congress. The Administration is working with Congress on certain provisions that independent inventors are concerned about, such as post-grant review. They realize that the threshhold for granting review needs to raised to prevent abuse. They will also work on provisions to prevent serial filings. They do believe, however, that independent inventors should prefer post-grant review to expensive litigation.
There is also concern with changing the US from a first-to-invent to a first-to-file regime. He noted that the impact of this change has been highly overblown. In 2007, only 7 interference cases were decided where the second party to file came out the winner based on a claim of earlier invention. This number is so low that it will not really affect many people at all.