Most of those involved in the patent system are aware of its problems, both real and perceived. Many of the calls for patent reform have been for changes to the processes that award patents and the procedures used to defend patents that have been infringed. One of the main issues that is also being discussed is the length of time it takes for an invention to proceed through the patent process. According to the Senate Appropriations Committee, the USPTO takes over two and a half years to process a patent application. The huge pendancy of applications is partially due to the USPTO being understaffed in general, and more importantly they are lacking in qualified examiners. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the USPTO has problem retaining the examiners that it already has. The problem was one that concerned the Appropriations committee, which incidentally reduced the USPTO budget from the President’s proposed budget of $1.843 billion to $1.771 billion for the fiscal year 2007 partially because of the problems with retaining examiners. According to the POPA website, the USPTO is offering bonuses for new recruits, but has not been willing to offer bonuses to keep their current employees around. This is mildly surprising in light of this post on IPBiz, which quotes a recent POPANEWS issue stating that many examiners work voluntary overtime to meet the production goals. Money may not be able to fix all of the problems with the patent system, but perhaps hiring more examiners and more importantly keeping the knowledgable employees they already have will both speed up the processing of patents and prevent unworthy patents from being issued.

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