Any inventor or innovator in Sacramento who has ever looked into the process of applying for a patent knows it's not exactly a quick process.
That being said, it seems like the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is trying to change that. Recently, it launched a website called Ask Patents that is meant to use members of the public to help weed out patent applications that should not be granted because they aren't original.
Patent applications for unoriginal or obvious "inventions" take time for patent clerks to process, of course, and that slows the process down for everyone, including those who have submitted an application for an original or innovative invention. It is estimated that hundreds of such patent applications are filed every week.
In particular, the U.S. PTO is looking for help with applications with software. Applications for software are among the most common and it can be very difficult for someone without a technology background to understand why a new software program is non-obvious, original or useful.
Another goal of Ask Patents is to provide more clarity and insight into how patents are granted. A spokesman for the software company that created Ask Patents with the U.S. PTO said it is "opening up a process that has been conducted behind closed doors for over 200 years."
It's too early to tell whether Ask Patents will have any kind of measurable impact on the time it takes to have a decision reached on a patent application, but generally speaking, it's good to see that the U.S. PTO understands inventors are frustrated with the process and are trying to change it.
Source: BBC News, "US patent office seeks aid to spot bogus patent claims," Sept. 21, 2012