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9/5/2007
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Patent Examiners Oppose Patent Reform Proposal

A group that claims to represent more than 5,000 patent examiners and professionals says patent reform proposals would hurt the American patent approval process.

A group that represents patent examiners and professionals says that a patent reform proposal in Congress would hurt the American patent approval process.

The Patent Office Professional Association, which claims to represent more than 5,000 members, distributed a patent policy paper (pdf) in Washington this week, stating that H.R. 1908 and S. 1145 includes a "dangerous requirement that would effectively outsource the patent search, allowing applicants to contract searches to anyone, including foreign entities."

The group wants Congress to focus on job retention, providing examiners enough time to review applications, and increasing resources, rather than changing the system.

The group claims that an Applicant Quality Submission requirement in the bills would make applicants provide a search report of all relevant patent and non-patent literature.

"The search is a critical part of the examination process and should remain an inherently governmental function performed by patent examiners who are free of conflicts of interest," POPA explained in a statement. "Congress historically has agreed, as in 2005 legislation that provided protections when contracting-out the prior art search."

The group claims the bills would give the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office too much rule-making authority to set and adjust fees, while diminishing congressional oversight.

POPA opposes several other provisions in the bill, including one which limits damages for patent infringement.

Instead, the group says the patent system could be strengthened by giving examiners more time to do a high-quality job the first time they review an application. It recommends setting an average time goal for examiners based on a formula that considers on filing fees and examiners' hourly pay.

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