U.S. and U.K. make pact to reduce patent backlog

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced an agreement with the U.K. Intellectual Property Office to figure out an "action plan" for reducing patent backlogs in both countries.

The cost to the global economy of the delay in processing patent applications is as much as $11.4 billion each year, according to a recent study by London Economics.

One priority of the the offices is to share the work reviewing patent applications that are filed jointly in both countries.

David Kappos, director of the USPTO, said work-sharing is an important feature of patent reform.

“Every quality patent application that sits on the shelf represents jobs not created," he said today.

"Thus far, however, our work-sharing efforts at the USPTO have largely been applicant driven and therefore dependent on whether individual applicants know about, and appreciate, the clear benefits of work-sharing.  So I am particularly delighted that we are today embracing with the UK an office-driven mechanism for reutilization of work.”

According to the London Economics study, the patent backlog prevents high-tech businesses such as telecom and engineering sectors from getting to market quickly. The study found that this results in a loss of competition, delays in research and development and an overall reduction in innovation.

As part of Sen. Patrick Leahy's Patent Reform Bill, the USPTO would be able to adjust application fees to help pay for the backlog reduction effort. That bill, however, has received significant push-back from certain sectors of the high-tech industry that feel it does not address the issue of run-away damages in patent infringement cases.