Investing in Patent Quality

Earlier this week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office released information on its Proposed Patent Fee Schedule. In announcing the Proposed Fee Schedule, Director David Kappos noted that the key principles of the proposed fee schedule are to ensure a more sustainable funding model for the USPTO, and to reduce the backlog of unexamined patent applications and decrease patent application pendency. The USPTO is holding public hearings later this month and inviting feedback and public input on the proposed fee schedule to guide it in making adjustments. A final proposed fee schedule is anticipated in June 2012, which will open a 60-day public comment period to submit written input directly to the Office.

Microsoft strongly supports the ongoing efforts of the USPTO to improve patent examination quality, and enhance the efficiency and operations of the Office. Taking aggressive action to reduce the application backlog and decrease patent pendency is vital to ensuring an effective and sustainable patent system for the United States. Arguably there is no good time for a fee increase, and some will question whether increasing fees in challenging economic times is the right thing to do. But to us, there should be no question that now is the right time to have a discussion about the benefits of investing in further improvements in patent quality and the potential costs of delaying that investment. While we are still assessing the specifics of USPTO’s proposal, we see value in the Office’s thoughtful approach.

Microsoft applauds the USPTO for engaging the public in an open process on the proposed fee schedule and inviting feedback and recommendations. We look forward to participating in an open and constructive dialogue between the Office and a wide range of IP stakeholders that will enable views and concerns to be expressed and acted upon in a productive manner. With this type of initiative and engagement, and as long as appropriators in Congress resist the temptation to divert user fees away from the USPTO, we’re confident that the end result will represent a funding model that positions the USPTO to deliver on its strategic objectives and strengthen the U.S. patent system for the long term.

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