Sponsored by Oregon Business

Huge patent backlog saps research and startup energy

| Print |  Email
Archives - March 2009
Sunday, March 01, 2009

STATEWIDE The staggering 770,000 patent backlog at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is sapping the energy behind research development and startups in Oregon. The backlog means applicants must wait several years to see if their patents will be approved.

“Patent protection is essential to providing incentive to private investors to get through the development phase,” says Don Gerhart, associate vice president for research and innovation at University of Oregon and a patent agent. When stakeholders must wait several years to see if their patent has been approved, “it makes it difficult to raise capital, build a team and hold a team together in startup companies as well as existing companies.”

Gerhart says that in his experience, the application process takes five to seven years (though the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reports an average of 3.5 years).

In the latest Oregon Innovation Index, created by the Oregon Innovation Council, Oregon ranked fourth in the nation in 2007 in patents per million people.

The patent office has come under fire for the growing backlog, and several institutions have presented a plan for fixing the problem. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recommends providing the patent office with adequate resources, improving retention of patent examiners and reforming the patent examiner production system.  

The patent office is in the process of turning things around and is three years into a massive hiring effort, hiring 1,200 new patent examiners each year, according to Jennifer Rankin Byrne, director of public affairs for the patent office.

But the larger problem is not the backlog, it’s the drop in the percentage of patents approved, according to William Noonan, partner at Klarquist Sparkman, which specializes in intellectual property legal services. In 2008, the USPTO approved 44% of applications, the lowest approval rate since at least 1975.        JENNIFER FURNISS

Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


More Articles

Make the business case, governor

Linda Baker
Thursday, November 05, 2015
aoikatebrownthumbBY LINDA BAKER

Gov. Kate Brown delivered the keynote speech at the Associated Oregon Industries annual policy forum yesterday.  Speaking to a Republican-aligned audience of about 100 business and public policy leaders, the governor was out of her comfort zone.


The Shift to Community Health Care

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A conversation with Patrick Curran, CEO of CareOregon.


Tech to Table

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Power Lunch at the Barn Light Cafe & Bar in Eugene.


Have a baby and keep a job? It won’t be easy in Portland

The Latest
Friday, October 02, 2015
100115kimblogthumbBY KIM MOORE

Our intrepid (and expecting) research editor finds the child care search involves long waiting lists, costly fees and no certainty of securing a place before she goes back to work.


Straight shooter

Linda Baker
Thursday, October 08, 2015
100815-bradleyBY LINDA BAKER

In an era dominated by self-promotion and marketing speak, John Bradley, CEO of R&H Construction, is a breath of fresh air.


The List: 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon

October 2015
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Oregon Business magazine’s seventh annual 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For project attracted more than 150 nonprofits from around the state from a variety of sectors, including social services and environmental advocacy.  More than 5,000 employees and volunteers filled out the survey, rating their satisfaction with work environment, mission and goals, career development and learning, benefits and compensation, and management and communications.


Photos: 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon awards dinner

The Latest
Thursday, October 01, 2015
100best202thumbPHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Images from the big 2015 celebration of worker-friendly organizations that make a difference.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02