Patent chief says backlog down to 640,000, 'lowest level in years'

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Last year, Congress passed the America Invents Act to streamline the nation's patent and trademark laws. The changes were designed to speed up the government's review of patent applications and discourage predatory lawsuits. 

In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Kappos said innovators are "already seeing the benefits of this legislation."

He said his office has launched an accelerated examination program authorized under the law that allows patent applications to be processed in 12 months. He said the agency has received 3,500 applications under the program and has taken a first step towards evaluating about 1,900 of them.

The office is also overhauling its fee system as part of the patent reform legislation. Kappos said the agency needs to adopt a sustainable funding model so that the agency doesn't run out of money due to fluctuations in the economy. He said the agency will increase its fees to pay for more resources to review applications.

"We will of course reevaluate fee levels when we reach financial stability and meet our goals in terms of patent backlog and pendency," Kappos said.