Patent Applications Backed Up: So Are New Jobs
Switzerland slid past the U.S. to first place in the 2009 - 2010 Global Competitiveness Report, a biannual report published by the World Economic Forum. There are many elements that contribute to a country's competitiveness, but the Forum puts a lot of emphasis, as it should, on innovation capacity. If innovation capacity were the only factor, the U.S. probably would not make it to the top 20.
Why? Because other countries are putting far more emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship than the U.S. right now. In fact, "North America" is the only continent that is less focused on innovation now than it was in the year 2000 - and it's not Canada that's pulling the continent down.
In the meantime, everyone is asking 'where are the jobs?' Manufacturing has left the area. The jobs are where the innovation is - 50 percent of new jobs come from new companies within their first five years of establishment. New companies are established to monetize innovation.
Where is innovation? Are we blighted with rusty spring disease in the U.S.? As it happens, no. You see there are millions of potential jobs being held captive by the U.S. Patent Office in the form of patent applications that have no one to read them and not enough people to evaluate them because some are too technologically sophisticated for the patent examiners.
And the new Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), former IBM chief David Kappos, admits all this himself. He volunteers this information, because without more funds his office cannot function. Though the office was set up to be self-sustaining, surviving from its fees, billions of dollars were siphoned off and re-diverted by Congressional earmarking between 1992 and 2004, which really put the Patent Office behind in its application reviews. And things have gotten worse.
Just this past December, a budget provision that was to provide an extra $100 million to the USPTO was pulled at the last minute. Now, the office has a cap on spending which prevents it from hiring new examiners even if an examiner leaves his or her position.
All that leaves the Patent Office with 1.2 million new applications, three times more than there were 10 years ago, and 700,000 of them have not been picked up for a preliminary examination.
It's been the Patent Office that has helped create millions and millions of jobs for more than 200 years. Patents created jobs during the Industrial Revolution and patents need to continue to create jobs in the digital and biotechnology age.
"Hundreds of thousands of groundbreaking innovations that are sitting on the shelf literally waiting to be examined - jobs not being created, lifesaving drugs not going to the marketplace, companies not being funded, businesses not being formed - there's really not any good news in any of this," Kappos said during a panel discussion at the annual trade show of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.
The Global Competitiveness Report 2009 - 2010: Country Profile Highlights, World Economic Forum
Technology Pioneers: 10 Year Summary, World Economic Forum
The Milwaukee, Wisconsin Journal Sentinel has been following the Patent Office closely in a series of articles that I highly recommend and I have used as a resources:
Patent backlog clogs recovery
Congress deals funding blow to Patent Office Patent rejections soar as pressure on agency risesHow the Patent System Has Shaped American History