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This year’s visit to the US PTO

Every year I teach a few classes to patent examiners at the US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO). In the past I’ve taught topics like “Agile Software Development” and “Aspect-oriented Programming” but this week the topics were “Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)” and “Knowledge Management Systems”, both full day sessions to a nice crowd of examiners. I hear people, especially engineers, poking fun at the PTO for issuing patents to some particular technology or other that they themselves wouldn’t have. But, each time I visit the PTO I find that I admire and respect the examiners more and more for doing a pretty tough job. While teaching the technology courses, I have come to find that they all truly want to do the right thing but with roughly 600,000 patents being filed per year and about 400,000 issued they’re doing a pretty good job. They each privately admit that they wish they had more time to spend on researching all the nuances of each technology and try to understand all the details of each invention; however, they admit there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do so for the quantity of patents that come in. They get pretty good training but they could always use more on bleeding edge technologies — if you really want to improve the patents and IP world, spend your time to spread knowledge from the industry to your favorite neighborhood patent examiner. You’ll learn a lot in the process, too.

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