Patent reform will also overhaul Patent Office workforce

Monday - 9/26/2011, 11:02am EDT

Robert Stoll, commissioner for patents, U.S. PTO

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By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio

After several years of debate and delay, the Congress passed and the president signed a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's patent laws. It changed everything for patent filers, but what about the Patent and Trademark Office itself?

Robert Stoll, the commissioner for patents at PTO joined the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris to outline the new law and how it affects PTO.

"It changes a lot of things for the Patent and Trademark Office," Stoll said. In addition to moving to a first-to-file system (which awards a patent to the first person to file for it, not the first person who claims to have invented), the law also gives PTO fee-setting authority and allows the agency to expedite the patent process.

The bill was a long time in coming, having been in the works for at least five or six years, Stoll said.

But in addition to all the changes for potential patent-filers, PTO employees, themselves, have also been schooled in the new procedures.

"We're undertaking extensive training of the patent examiners ... to inform them about the new rules and regulations and laws. As a matter of fact, the minute the president's pen left the paper signing the bill, I sent an email to my deputy to actually send out notifications to the examiners of the immediate changes that were occurring."

Another big change coming to PTO? As many as 2,000 new faces.

Because of the existing backlog in patent applications, the office alredy needed more employees, Stoll said. But because of provisions in the new bill, PTO will also likely need to hire even more employees, he added — as many as 1,500 to 2,000. "So we're talking about significant numbers here," he said.

The bill comes with staggered deadlines for various provisions, Stoll explained, and it will take about 18 months until all of the various pieces are underway.

"This is a big transition period," Stoll added.