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GAO Urges USPTO to Address Patent Quality Definition, Examiner Incentives & Patent Application Clarity

GAOThe Government Accountability Office has called on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to articulate a comprehensive definition for patent quality, address the clarity of patent applications and reassess time allotted for application examinations.

GAO said in a report published Wednesday district court filings of patent infringement lawsuits increased to more than 5,000 in 2015 from approximately 2,000 in 2007 while the defendants named in the lawsuits reached 8,000 from 5,000 in the same period.

The government watchdog added most suits involve software, computer and communications technology-related patents and that stakeholders claimed these patents can be “unclear and overly broad” due to low patent quality.

Auditors estimate 70 percent of patent examiners that GAO interviewed say the time allotted to complete application examinations do not meet workload needs.

The report further stated “nearly 90 percent of examiners always or often encountered broadly worded patent applications, and nearly two-thirds of examiners said that this made it difficult to complete a thorough examination.”

GAO recommended for USPTO to provide a consistent definition of patent quality in agency documents and guidance; assess the impact of examiner incentives on patent quality and consider the use of additional application tools such as a glossary of terms.

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