Growing Pains at the Patent Office
The first patent, U.S. Patent No. X000001, issued on July 31, 1790. It is directed to an improvement in the making of pot ash, and appears to have been examined by Edmond Randolph, the first U.S. Attorney General, and signed by President George Washington in the second year of his presidency.
Last week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued U.S. Patent No. 9,000,000. This patent is directed to a system and method of collecting and conditioning rainwater and moisture from a windshield and utilizing the collected fluid to replenish the windshield washer reservoir.
It took nearly eighty-five years for the first two million patents to issue, but only seventy-five years for the next seven million. Patent applications and awarded patents continue to grow exponentially.
Given this growth, it may not be surprising that today’s U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is facing challenges. A report issued this week by the inspector general for the Commerce Department found overall deficiencies with quality assurance which are making it difficult to evaluate patent examiner performance and measure the quality of the patents being issued. The inspector general urged the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to improve its quality control and made recommendations in its report for doing so.
The Patent Office certainly has its work cut out for it in addressing these and other issues. But, it seems up to the task. Despite having been in the position for just over a month, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s current Director, Michelle K. Lee, concurred with most of the inspector general’s recommendations and, to her credit, already seems to be gearing up to address these issues head on. We expect to learn more about the plans to address these issues later today, when Director Lee will be visiting the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery to discuss the future of intellectual property and innovation.
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