President Obama has announced that David Kappos (head of IP law at IBM) will be nominated as the next director of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Mr. Kappos should take the USPTO in the right direction to help improve access to patents by inventors and small businesses who have limited budgets. See USPTO Announcement.
Reuters is reporting that the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office revenue has dropped from $6.9 million a day in January (2009) to just $5.9 million a day last week. This is a result of the dramatic decrease in patent allowance rates the past three years combined with the poor economy. The USPTO is seeking to temporarily transfer a portion of the trademark surplus to help out.
The Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) has reported a large increase in BPAI appeals and in its backlog. The backlog of appeals has almost doubled to over 10,000 pending appeals. This is the result of the USPTO implementing strict review procedures which have result in an allowance rate of only about 42% (historically the allowance rate has been around 70%). Changes are occuring at the USPTO as I write this post, so we should see the BPAI appeals level off before the end of the year (and hopefully see the allowance rate get to a healthier level).
The Supreme Court has agreed to review the Bilski case which has been a controversial decision affecting business process and software patents. Since the 1998 State Street ruling, software and business process patents have been widely accepted. However, after the Bilski decision by the Federal Circuit last year, receiving (and enforcing) patents for business process and software inventions has been increasingly difficult. Whether or not you are a fan of software patents, this will be an important decision for the patent attorneys and patent owners.