Tracked for success

Decorated ceiling vault, New York Public Library

Random picture.

Why wait in that poky line with the coach crowd when you can get your patent application to the front of the line by flying first class?  Woodrow Pollack writes about this press release from the PTO:

Washington – The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced today plans for the agency to begin accepting requests for prioritized examination of patent applications – allowing inventors and businesses to have their patents processed within 12 months. It currently takes nearly three years to process the average patent. The program, called Track One, launches May 4, 2011, and is part of a new Three-Track system, which will provide applicants with greater control over when their applications are examined and promote greater efficiency in the patent examination process.

There’s something very free-markety about that, isn’t there?

Isn’t there something also kind of rotten about it?

Well, waiting it line has this very egalitarian aspect to it.  Everyone should wait his turn.  But on reflection, as an amateur economist, yes, it does make sense that a patent applicant or the backers of a patent whose invention promises greater economic value will make an investment to have that return begin that much faster by getting on the fast track for a premium.

That assumes a great deal of market efficiency, doesn’t it?

Well, maybe, maybe not.  Even if it is only assumes a little bit of market efficiency, isn’t overall welfare improved this way?

That is actually an empirical question, I guess.  Assuming the same number of patent examiners, a fast track doesn’t only speed up processing compared to conventional applications — it necessarily, or at least prima facie, would seem to also slow down processing for non-fast track applications.

The pricing question is a bit odd.  This model would seem to want to have a bidding aspect to it, or a sliding scale.  Instead, it’s one fast-track price — $4,000.  (True — there’s also “business class.”  Not clear to me whether they get a bigger bag of peanuts or what.)

A little strange.  Whereas I imagine the idea has been modeled somewhere before being implemented, I can see all kinds of unintended consequences arising from this — but most interesting will be to see who games the system, troll-style, to make buying your way to the head of the patent line really, really rotten. We’ll see.

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Author:Ron Coleman

I write this blog.

6 Responses to “Tracked for success”

  1. April 11, 2011 at 2:02 am #

    With the USA as a leader in biotechnology/ pharma R&D, would it be efficient to leave investors and inventors, in this advanced sector of IP, waiting in line for 3+ years (i. a., a typical short-term R&D project duration)? Also, if to consider the importance of pharmaceutical, nanobiotech (not to mention stem cell R&D…) and other high-priority scientific areas – to the global welfare, any procrastination may mean a slow-down in funding for the researchers, which, as it seems, the new prioritized examination of patent applications is supposed to tackle.

    Good news for big R&D centers, and maybe not so good – for second-priority inventors. But why the economy should prefer a re(x10x∞)-invented wheel to life-saving biotech?

  2. As for unintended consequences, there’re sure to be at least some. Even if you keep testing some new system for a ges, it’ll still have some faults once you start using it. And since the project is in progress but hasn’t been implemented yet, those who are going to come across it are in for some “surprises”. But all in all, I’m sure that at least something has been don e to optimize this process of getting a patent.

  3. April 11, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    I don’t think it will really slow down others applications… 10,000 ‘fast track’ apps a year out of 200k+ filed each year is a drop in the bucket.

    This is about one thing… money. For a fee, you can do anything at the patent office.

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  1. Nina H.Lanina - April 11, 2011

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  3. The [email protected] Ranch - April 13, 2011

    RT @roncoleman: Tracked for success – Get your patent application to the front of the line http://bit.ly/h0xrNt