USPTO’s 2012 Annual Report Marks Big Changes and Challenges

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently released its 2012 Performance and Accountability Report. It details the agency’s accomplishments over the past fiscal year, as well as its goals and challenges for the future.

Not surprisingly, both are strongly influenced by the historic changes mandated under the America Invents Act. As noted by USPTO Director David Kappos, “Our list of accomplishments is long, and our goals for the future are ambitious. We move forward with these operations and plans with the knowledge that there could be funding challenges in FY 2013, given that we are in the middle of a historic change in how we set fees to a full-cost recovery model.”

Below are several accomplishments highlighted in the USPTO report:

  • The USPTO implemented several key rules under the AIA addressing both the patent application process and administrative trial proceedings.
  • The USPTO opened its first-ever satellite office, the Elijah J. McCoy Satellite Office in Detroit, Michigan. According to the USPTO, the office is already processing patent applications, and one hundred patent examiners and 20 administrative patent judges are expected to be on staff within the office’s first year of operation.
  • The USPTO significantly reduced the number of unexamined utility patent applications, reaching the lowest level in more than five years. The backlog now stands at 608,283 applications, down from more than 750,000 applications in 2009.
  • The USPTO saw a rise in trademark applications. In fact, FY 2012 was a historic year, with 415,026 total trademark application filings, a four percent increase over the previous year.
  • The USPTO joined with officials of the IP5, representing the five largest patent offices in the world, in a commitment to greater work sharing and harmonization of patent laws. The agency has also partnered with 24 other patent offices around the world on the Patent Prosecution Highway.

Going forward, the report notes that patent challenges include “reduce[ing] patent pendency and the excess inventory of unexamined patent applications to an appropriate working inventory, while improving patent quality and building a highly trained and stable workforce.” Meanwhile, the agency’s trademark operations will be focused on “developing systems and processes that make filing and maintaining registrations more accessible, user-friendly, and cost-effective,” with the goal of supporting “outreach efforts to to work with and engage the small business, entrepreneurial, and educational communities in the value and benefits of trademark protection.”

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