Proposal to Support PTO, Entrepreneurs & Inventors

By Gene Quinn
April 20, 2009

Yeseterday I wrote an article titled Obama to Fund Entrepreneurs in Latin America.  In this article I discussed President Obama’s remarks while at the Summitt of the Americas, particularly picking up on his pledge to send $448 million dollars to foreign countries impacted by the economic crisis, and a plan to create a fund to restart the lending to businesses and entrepreneurs in Latin and South America.  According to Bloomberg.com, the US would pledge $100 million to the so-called Microfinance Growth Fund.  The news of this US funded program to assist entrepreneurs in Latin and South America comes just days before the Wall Street Journal reported earlier today that lending at the biggest U.S. banks has fallen more sharply than realized.  It seems that despite government efforts to pump billions of dollars into the financial sector, lending at U.S. banks, including those receiving TARP funds, continues to decline month after month.  What this means is that the credit crunch is not only not getting better, it is getting worse.  Now is not the time to spend any taxpayer funds on entrepreneurs in Latin America and South America.  If money exists to create an Entrepreneurship Growth Fund, then that fund should be started in the United States and aid inventors and entrepreneurs in the United States. 

I am not sure I buy all the “party of NO” rhetoric whirling around Washington, D.C. in reference to the Republicans, but it is certain true that we are well past the point where identifying problems is helpful.  We need to graduate, and quickly, to a point where ideas are put forth.  So let me be perfectly clear in what I believe.  I believe that U.S. taxpayer funds should not be diverted to create a Latin and South America growth fund.  I also do not believe that Congress should authorize the requested $448 million for foreign countries impacted by the current economic meltdown.  I believe that there are many U.S. citizens, entrepreneurs and small businesses who could use some of that $448 million that President Obama wants to set aside for those outside the United States.  I believe that before money is set aside for foreign economic recovery or for a Latin America and South America growth fund we ought to ask whether those monies could be used by American inventors and American entrepreneurs to create American jobs.

I recently wrote an article discussing what President Reagan attempted to do with respect to rectifying problems then faced by the Patent Office, and how he attempted to set up a climate in which U.S. industry could evolve to take a leadership role with respect to superconductivity technologies.  The great promise that was thought to lie in superconductivity has, admittedly, not yet been realized, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot learn from the agenda and path charted by President Reagan.  President Reagan understood that it was essential for the U.S. to play a leadership role in technological areas as important as superconductivity could have been.  He realized that the Japanese were moving into that space and it was important for the U.S. to take serious and concrete measures calculated to succeeding.  The goal was, of course, to build high-paying technology jobs in the U.S.  In order to achieve that goal President Reagan did not suggest that we create a growth fund for the Japanese to assist them with research and development of important technologies.  Rather, President Reagan set out to reform the Patent Office, which he successfully did accomplish.  It is time once again to rescue the Patent Office from itself, and I sincerely hope President Obama understands the consequences if we fail.

What we need to be doing is encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in the United States.  I understand that we have a global economy, but if we are to believe the rhetoric one of the goals of the green technology movement is to create U.S. jobs that cannot be outsourced.  I think that is a splendid idea, but an idea that is not furthered by taking U.S. taxpayer money and sending it to Latin America or South America.  This would be furthered by providing inventors and innovative start-up companies with funds, support and an operational Patent Office.  You see, the entire idea of the wildly popular Bayh-Dole legislation, which has been called the most successful piece of legislation in the last 50 years, was to seed Universities with federal funds so they could conduct basic research efforts, obtain patents on innovations, license out technologies and reap the financial rewards back to fund further development.  If we thoughtfully seed entrepreneurs and inventors we can foster a system that would identify which innovations have the most potential, fund research and development and then as winners emerge investors would jump in and carry forward with new industries and new jobs.

Another way to spend $100 million would be to recall retired examiners back to the Patent Office.  Why not create a special group of ex-examiners who can come in and dive into the backlog of pending cases?  You could even open up this special team to retired patent attorneys who no longer have an affiliation with a law firm or any client docket.  If you were to pay these retired patent experts $100 per hour that would give you 1,000,000 hours of time to devote to cleaning up the backlog of cases.  You could even split this 1,000,000 hours up so that some if it would go to examination of applications and to handling the growing backlog of appeals at the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences.  From what I have recently been told there were about 6,000 appeals filed in all of 2008, and so far in calendar year 2009 there have already been 6,000 appeals filed.  Those in the industry know why appeals are up so much, but lets save that discussion for later on this week.  In any event, the BPAI could sure use some help too!

So here is my proposal.  Rather than spend $448 million on economic stimulus for those outside the United States why don’t we try this instead:

  1. The creation of a $150 million U.S. Entrepreneurship Growth Fund.  The fund would distribute up to $100,000 to at least 1,500 small businesses in the United States.  The metric for distribution is simple.  Give the money to those who have the best plan to use the funds to create new jobs in the United States.  Applicants would have to describe what they would do with the money and how that could be expected to expand business and how it would likely create new jobs for American workers.
  2. The creation of a $150 million U.S. Innovation Growth Fund.  The fund would distribute up to $50,000 to at least 3,000 small businesses to pursue development of technologies.  The metric for distribution is simple. Give the money to those who ahve the best plans to use the funds to research and develop cutting edge technologies that have a likelihood of ultimately creating new jobs for American workers.
  3. Give $148 million to the United States Patent and Trademark Office to fund up to 1,480,000 additional work hours by retired patent examiners and retired patent attorneys and agents. 

This might be a drop in the bucket, but we are at the point where every drop counts, and I would personally rather the drops go to help U.S. citizens and the U.S. economy instead of helping others who never have and never will pay taxes in the United States. 

As other wasteful spending plans emerge that won’t have any benefit for U.S. citizens or have any realistic chance of promoting economic recovery within the U.S., I will try and find some money for the USPTO IT system, which Robert Budens, the President of the Patent Office Professional Association, says is “hanging on by bubble gum and bailing wire.”  But for now I’m afraid you folks in Alexandria are going to need to come up with some McGuyver-like ways to  use duct tape to keep the computers and network running.

The Author

Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn is a Patent Attorney and Editor and President & CEO ofIPWatchdog, Inc.. Gene founded IPWatchdog.com in 1999. Gene is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course and Of Counsel to the law firm of Berenato & White, LLC. Gene’s specialty is in the area of strategic patent consulting, patent application drafting and patent prosecution. He consults with attorneys facing peculiar procedural issues at the Patent Office, advises investors and executives on patent law changes and pending litigation matters, and works with start-up businesses throughout the United States and around the world, primarily dealing with software and computer related innovations. is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. CLICK HERE to send Gene a message.

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Discuss this

There are currently 3 Comments comments.

  1. Karen Tinsley-Kim April 21, 2009 9:48 pm

    This is an excellent read and well developed point that for the US to be effective in helping other worldwide economies, we need to get our house in order first. Therefore we need to keep the US taxpayer funding here, drop by drop, as necessary. My new business could offer jobs here, but the funding is very hard to find. Yet, I count my blessings everyday as a newly-patented inventor, as I have friends and family who are still waiting for theirs.

    I also have American-educated PhD friends in Asia who have sadly, but truthfully for now, come to the conclusion that they can get further along in their R&D in the tech sector there than here. I suspect part of that also has to do with tediousness the US Patent & Trademark Office. The continuing-to-grow economy in Asia, especially in China, seems to be easier for our government to ignore than deal with, let alone consider competing with. It is not hard to see the strategy Asia has. Why won’t we wake up?

  2. Gene Quinn April 22, 2009 8:38 am

    Karen-

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on this story. It is sad to hear that highly educated people are leaving the US and going abroad to further their research. I wish I could say that comes as a surprise. This type of brain-drain needs to be stopped.

    I would love to hear from those who are willing to share their stories with respect to not being able to get funding to move US businesses forward, as well as stories about how it was more advantageous to go overseas to further research and development. Getting this out into the open can only help.

    -Gene

  3. TT April 23, 2009 8:58 am

    “Another way to spend $100 million would be to recall retired examiners back to the Patent Office. Why not create a special group of ex-examiners who can come in and dive into the backlog of pending cases? You could even open up this special team to retired patent attorneys who no longer have an affiliation with a law firm or any client docket. If you were to pay these retired patent experts $100 per hour that would give you 1,000,000 hours of time to devote to cleaning up the backlog of cases. You could even split this 1,000,000 hours up so that some if it would go to examination of applications and to handling the growing backlog of appeals at the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences. From what I have recently been told there were about 6,000 appeals filed in all of 2008, and so far in calendar year 2009 there have already been 6,000 appeals filed. Those in the industry know why appeals are up so much, but lets save that discussion for later on this week. In any event, the BPAI could sure use some help too!”

    My admiration for USPTO management is limited but to be fair the USPTO did try very hard to implement a plan to bring back retired Examiners on a part time basis. I think they were to work on the dockets of Examiners who for one reason or another had left the office. A job no one likes. I heard the proposal ran afoul of Office of Management and Budget civil service regulations.

    I have always been curious as to how Patent Lawyers would fair as Examiners. My suspicion is not well. I think they would have difficulty with the search and would have much difficulty with the production requirements of the USPTO. In fact, I don’t know and it would be fun to watch. However, only a Primary Examiner can issue a US Patent and it would take years for an Attorney to achieve Primary status. They certainly could never join the Examining Corps as a Primary.

    Logically there are only two ways to reduce the backlog, get more Examiners and raise the productivity of the existing Examiners, i.e. reduce the hours allotted to an Examiner for each application. It is the suspicion of many Examiners that the recent spate of rule changes concerning numbers of claims, IDS’s etc has as a motivation USPTO management’s desire to reduce the hours per case. With the renewed emphasis on “patent quality” there would seem to be a certain tension between “quality” of examination and reducing the time given to a case.