The “Patent Pending” Problem

SO COMMON is the phrase "patent pending" on US goods that Americans can be forgiven if they interpret it as a proud proclamation of success. "Our product is so special, we’re in line to win a patent!" In truth, however, all those patents pending are a sign of failure – the failure of the US Patent and Trademark Office to keep up with the torrent of innovation upon which our economy depends.

One million US patent applications are gathering dust today, waiting an average of three years to be examined and ruled upon. That’s a problem because despite the widespread notion that patents are about greedy companies gaining monopoly rights, the patent system is primarily a tool of progressive policy making – of sharing information and advancing technology.

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