Timely article in Popular Science regarding the USPTO and its backlog
January 16, 2008

The passage below is from an article in Popular Science, and is timely given the current workload of the USPTO and statements by Director Dudas that application pendency will continue to increase:

The Patent Office Has Become A National Disgrace

THE Patent Office, in Washington, D. C, recently sent to a workman in a chemical factory in the Middle West a $100,000 piece of paper that wasn't worth a cent.

It represented a patent on a machine he had invented two years before. Factory officials, at the time the application was made, estimated that the invention would be worth $100,000 to them as soon as a patent was obtained. The workman visioned himself on Easy Street. But he reckoned without delays at the Patent Office.

His application was sent in on February 16, his patent attorney told me. Spring came and went. The Fourth of July passed. No word from Washington. The chemical industry was moving fast. New processes were appearing all the time. Unless he could get his patent soon, changes promised to make his invention valueless. He wrote to the Commissioner of Patents. A letter came back telling him that work was so far behind it would still be months before the examiners could get to his application. It was nearly Christmas when a letter arrived from the examiner asking for information that required the revision of one of the claims. The inventor replied at once, expecting to get his patent immediately. Again dragging months passed. Again he wrote asking the cause of the delay. He was informed that the examiner’s request for additional information automatically put the application at the end of the list, and it could not be considered again until all the applications that had come in during the ten months it had waited before its first examination had been disposed of.

The following fall, nearly two years after the first application was made, the patent was granted. By then, changes in the particular branch of the chemical industry to which it applied made the invention worthless.

This is only one of many examples of how inventors are handicapped and cheated of their rightful rewards through long delays in the granting of patents. Undermanned, out of date, with inadequate equipment, the United States Patent Office is trying to meet the conditions of today with facilities designed for the needs of years ago. In practically every large patent attorney’s office, there are on file patent papers which clients never bother to come and get. The demand for the inventions they cover disappeared during the long wait for the patent papers.

NOBODY knows how many American inventors have seen fortunes slip through their fingers because of tardiness at Washington. The number must reach into the thousands. If others are to be spared similar experiences, drastic action is necessary to speed up the machinery of the Patent Office.

When was the article published, you ask? 1930.

HT: Modern Mechanix. You can read the full text of the article there, or click below for links to images of the article.

June 1930 Popular Science cover

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