The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is overflowing with more than 700,000 applications from inventors. The current wait time for a patent is, on average, three years. Unless your invention happens to be environmentally friendly. Politically-correct “green” applications get special treatment. Such applications can crash the line, so to speak. Even the petition fee is waived for environmental inventions.
The tidal backlog in patent approvals is costing the economy untold damage. Getting the patent process flowing may be the best way to jump-start the economy and create many thousands of new jobs. As David Kappos, director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), told CBS News in an Aug. 8 interview, “Every innovation comes through this agency on the way to creating a business, whether it’s a light bulb, whether is a laser, whether is the iPod.” Or, he could have added, whether it’s green enough.
One of the first “green” applications okayed for a patent took only ten weeks. It was Skyline Solar, a Silicon Valley, California, company, an outfit already benefiting from a subcontract with the U.S. Energy Department. The green technology priority pilot program began in December 2009. In May it was liberalized to broaden the environmental categories eligible for expedited examination.
The big mystery is why the Obama administration hasn’t dumped one of its typical multi-billion subsidies into the USPTO to spur the green jobs revolution. It is particularly strange that the Obama administration’s idea machine, the Center for American Progress (CAP) didn’t move with a bit more haste. Now, however, it seems to be in step with the move to get more environmental ideas to the marketplace in haste.
The ultra-liberal Center for American Progress has locked arms with the Patent Office, quite possibly to ensure that green will continue to be the color of choice in granting patents. Patent chief Kappos spoke on June 2 at a CAP meeting where he said “It’s quite a pleasure to join the team at CAP today.” He told the attendees that technological innovation is responsible for three-fourths of our nation’s post-World War II economic growth rate. He told those assembled that “intellectual property” is one area that could hold the key to creating jobs. “Some patents need to be issued more quickly than others, such as green innovation. The USPTO is right in the middle of that equation,” he said. Kappos, in answer to a question from the audience, said his agency has processed speedily “more than 1,000 green applications from all over the country” and the applications were “given accelerated priority” to promote more hiring and “clean, green energy and environmentally-friendly products and services.”
The serious danger in giving priority to environmental innovations ahead of all others is the probability of delay in processing applications for patents on crucial, life-saving biotechnological developments and discoveries in molecular biology which have made exciting advances in curing diseases and saving lives. By all reasonable standards they should come first. Aren’t human lives just a little more important than, say, a new solar panel?
Some 7,752,677 patents have been issued to inventors and university researchers since the federal patent office was founded in 1790. Like a few other federal agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Securities and Exchange Commission, USPTO is self-financed. To file for a patent, the normal charge is $1,000. Patents, and licensing fees they may generate, eventually can be worth millions or even billions of dollars. Congress doesn’t let the USPTO keep the revenue it takes in. It diverts $200 million a year to other federal spending, somewhat the way it robs the Social Security Trust Fund each year.
August 10, President Obama signed into law a bill giving the Patent Office authority to spend an added $129 million of the fees the agency will collect in 2010. The agency figures it will collect nearly $200 million more than its fiscal year 2010 money of $1.8 billion. Following the signing, Kappos said, “This additional funding will allow us to continue the progress we’ve made in improving the USPTO and the patent process so that patents can be issued more quickly, investment in technology and new products will be accelerated and much-needed jobs will be created.”
Meanwhile, a bipartisan bill to make a sweeping overhaul of the under funded USPTO is bogged down in Congress, even though it could potentially help to create untold numbers of jobs. A CNNMoney.com story in June explained the biggest change in the pending legislation would change it from a ‘first-to-file’ system, from a ‘first-to-invent’ system. We are the only major nation that awards patents only to those who can prove they invented something before someone else’s patent was filed. So, the U.S. patent system is rife with legal suits while courts try to sort out who created an invention first. The bill also would let the patent office set its own fees. Businesses and intellectual property attorneys are eager to see Congress act.
The Center for American Progress is probably Washington’s most influential idea factory for the Obama Administration. It is funded largely by the deep-pocket billionaire George Soros, left-wing head of Move-on.org. The Center’s president and CEO is John Podesta. He was chief of staff to Bill Clinton and headed the transition team when President Obama took office. CAP was created in 2003 as a left-tilted alternative to Washington’s conservative think tanks.
A sister advocacy organization to CAP is the American Progress Action Fund, which shares the same address and some of the same staff with CAP. CAP is a 501©(3) nonprofit. The fund is a 501©(4) lobbying organization . In 2003, George Soros was said to donate $3 million to the fund. Soros, in the minds of many, is beyond radical. He established the Open Society Institute in 1979 which serves his foundations that donate millions of dollars: to promote the view that America is an oppressive nation, to oppose national security measures, to depict U.S. military actions as immoral, to promote amnesty for illegal aliens, to promote unilateral disarmament, to bring our foreign policy under the UN, and to legalize marijuana.
A study done for the Center for American Progress in June 2009 on how the stimulus package and energy tax legislation could purportedly boost growth and employment and create 2 million new jobs fell pitifully short of the over-promised mark. The study was done by the Department of Economics and Political Economy m Research Institute, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The report proposed $50 billion in tax credits for energy efficient retrofits and renewable energy systems, among other spending.
In November 2009, as part of the green Tech Pilot Program the patent office announced it would give expedited treatment to the first 3,000 pending “green tech” applications that meet procedural requirements. By April 20, 2010, PTO had accelerated less than 300 applications, suggesting the program would be extended. PTO at end of March issued a report that it had 900 requests for acceleration and granted one-third, denying most of the others. An application had to fall within one of 89 classifications in four categories: alternative energy production, energy conservation, environmentally farming, or environmental purification, protection, or remediation., according to Goodwin Proctor, a prominent international law firm.
Now, with the more liberal rules at the USPTO for environmental-friendly inventions, we should be greener and greener.