The PTO has released a draft “strategic plan” for the next five years. (2007–2012). I have not had a chance to review the draft yet except to note that the PTO continues to see human resources as its greatest challenge. One interesting bit may foreshadow future changes:
An open question that the USPTO will address [is whether] there is some combination of examination processes and patent products that will better allow applicants to choose what determinations and results they need and what are the most efficient processes to pursue those results and at the same time provide a more efficient use of the examination resources of the USPTO by only providing the level of examination required by the applicant.
Anyone in practice will agree that patents on biotech and pharmaceutical inventions are pursued in a much different fashion than are most mechanical or electrical type applications. An upcoming academic conference at Michigan will focus on this “diversity in innovation” and will focus on whether our current unified system should remain so. As with many of the trends in patent law today, Mark Lemley is out in front on this one as well.
Besides diversity across areas of technology, there is also a diversity amongst what patent owners want from the patent system. A so-called “gold plated” system was proposed by Lemley, Doug Lichtman, and Bhaven Sampat earlier this year.
The PTO is asking for comments and will hold a public forum on September 26, 2006 at the Office.