I just spoke with Mark Malek, a patent attorney at the firm I am with – Zies Widerman & Malek. Mark had an interesting conversation earlier today with a patent examiner who shall remain nameless. The purpose of the call was to inquire about the status of a particular application that had been filed over 4 years ago and which was still waiting a First Office Action. The patent examiner told Mark that about 2 weeks ago management told the examining corps that they need to start issuing patents. This may seem strange to those who are not familiar with how the Patent Office has been operating, but this is sadly important news to report. The allowance rate had dipped to 42% during the first quarter of 2009, and over the five year term of Jon Dudas the allowance range had dropped from its historical averages year after year.
Because of strict quality initiatives, which really didn’t raise quality all that much, many patent applications were held up, rejected outright or applicants were forced to file continuations or appeal. This lead to a tremendous backlog of patent applications, unrest in the patent bar, unrest among corporations upon whose existence and funding require issued patents, and unrest among patent examiners as well. It seems that the initiatives that Acting Patent Commissioner Peggy Focarino spoke to me about are in full swing and new training has ensued to train examiners how to efficiently and appropriately issue patent applications. This is indeed very good news, and I expect we will see a substantial raise in patent allowances moving forward through the end of fiscal year 2009. Filing patent applications might just become the “in” thing to do once again given a realistic opportunity to obtain rights. Now we can only hope that these initiatives also lower the pendency period so patents can issue while still technologically relevant.
More to come next week. In the meantime, a tip of the hat to the Patent Office!
I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day Weekend!