"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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