The current pending omnibus appropriations bill would provide $2.01 billion to the PTO so long as all of that money is obtained by the PTO through fees. [LINK]. As Greg Aharonian noted in his PATNEWS, none of the $800 billion bailout money is being directed toward improving the patent system.
The bill includes a statement that Congress will hold back $5 million until the PTO completes "a comprehensive review of the assumptions behind the patent examiner expectancy goals and adopt[s] a revised set of expectancy goals for patent examination."
Today, many examiners operate well over their expectancy goals — earning overtime bonus for extra work. If the time allowed is increased without increasing demands on the examiners, the result may simply be that Examiner #6 operates at 140% of his expected goal rather than 120%. I.e., more pay for the examiner without changing the examiner behavior at all. Now, I’m not opposed to increasing the examiner payscale, but if we are hoping to improve the system, any review of expectancy goals need to be coupled with a review of examination standards.