Kappos: Change is coming to patent office

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Director David Kappos told inventors yesterday there will be "significant changes ahead" for the patent system, especially if the current patent reform bill is passed by Congress.

Application fees for inventors may increase, largely due to the projected $200 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year that began last month. The Patent Office has a hiring freeze, "and the agency is declining in size every day," he said during a speech during the Independent Inventors Conference.

But he promised to address the agency's biggest issue: a backlog of 750,000 patent applications.

First, he's launched an interview program that allows inventors to meet with examiners about patent applications before the review process begins. He also said the examiners now have more time to evaluate patents and meet with inventors, which will hopefully help avoid mistakes and speed up the process. Kappos also urged independent inventors to prioritize their patent applications so out-dated applications can be taken out of the backlog.

The legislation would reduce the amount of time a post-grant challenge could take, he said, and would not allow entities to challenge a patent more than once.

"The last thing we want is to waste time evaluating half-baked requests to get into the post-grant process," he said.

"I do support the reform eforts underway in Congress because I believe they will improve the patent system. I hope we can have fact-based discussions and move together away from outdated patent system that hasn't been improved or updated in 50 years to a system that will enable us to move to 21st Century."