Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article that makes you scratch your head. The article, Expediting US Innovation Comes at a Cost by Angus Loten deals with an announcement from the Commerce Department about a new fast track process for patents. According to the article, “Until now, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office largely has processed patents on a first-come, first-serve basis for a base fee of $1,090. Last year, the office granted more than 244,358 patents, up 27% from 2009. The process takes an average of 35 months to complete, and often includes costly legal fees—patent lawyers typically charge more than $25,000, depending on the complexity of the application.” The article then goes on to explain that a new process, which is a part of the White House’s Startup America initiative, “would cut the process to just 12 months for $4,000, along with upfront processing and publication fees of $430.”
While for many of the students and entrepreneurs that we talk with, the notion of speed- to-market is more important that the patent, but for those faculty and students that we deal with that do need patents, I think this new process is well worth the extra dollars.
The reason I mention it’s a head-scratcher is that article seems to feel that it will create an unfair playing field for entrepreneurs, giving those with more money quicker access to the patent process. If a professor or student was sitting in front of me today, I would recommend get the extra three grand from family or friends and get the process rolling. Especially since the patent office is going to fast track only 10,000 applications in the first year of this new process, it makes sense to do it.