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

Getting What You Pay For

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A conversation with Chris Maples, president of the Oregon Institute of Technology.


Social media transforming sports business

The Latest
Thursday, September 24, 2015

The traditional model of sports teams using paid media to get their message across is disappearing as teams look instead to social media to interact with fans.


The Cover Story

The Latest
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
100515-cover1015-news-thumbBY CHRIS NOBLE

As we worked on the October cover, it became evident that Nick Symmonds is a hard man to catch — even when he’s not hotfooting it around a track.


Reader Input: In or Out

October 2015
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The refugee crisis has put immigration and border issues on the front burner, in Europe and at home. In Oregon, attitudes toward illegal immigration haven’t changed dramatically since 2006.


Cutting Edge

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

“There wasn’t a reason shaving with a straight razor should have been taken over by shaving with disposable razors.”


More Than Meets the Eye

Guest Blog
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Janet Yellen official Federal Reserve portrait-thumbBY JASON NORRIS | CFA

On September 17, the much anticipated Fed decision was delivered and the equity markets haven't liked it.


Counterpoint: CLT not as green as people think

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
photo-flickr-glasseyes viewthymbBY GREGG LEWIS | OP-ED

The issue of green-washing remains a significant challenge to those of us who would like to see the building sector in this country do more than make unverifiable claims of sustainability. Transparency about the impacts of a given material is the only way to allow designers to make intelligent choices when selecting building products.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02