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NewsForge: Patent Office director: My hands are tied

Oct 05, 2000, 12:56 (10 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Grant Gross)

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"Dickinson had just defended the Patent Office's decision to issue 583 software business-method patents in 1999 -- the office is on pace to issue 1,000 this year -- by saying courts have ruled software and business methods are patentable. Congress had made no move to make software patents more difficult to obtain, he added, despite growing criticism that the office is issuing patents for business ideas that are unoriginal or already widely used. Dickinson was apparently unaware that two Democratic congressmen recently introduced a bill to reform the patent process."

"Sometimes, I wish I was a professor and had time to think about these things," said Dickinson, whose office issued 161,000 patents in 1999. "I've got an office to run, and I've got 1,500 of these applications coming in every day."

"Dickinson saying the office is too busy to deal with the issue "seems to be an extraordinary indictment of our government-backed monopoly office," Lessig responded. "This is the most important part of our economy."

"Earlier this year, the patent office has taken steps toward reform, Dickinson said, including outreach to affected technology groups, increased training for examiners, a "second-look" examination on software-related patents. Also, in November 1999 Congress passed a law requiring notice of most patent applications within 18 months of filing, when previously, the patent applications were secret until the patent was granted. Already, the Patent Office is rejecting 43% of business-method patents, compared to only 33% rejections of all patent applications."

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