Got a bright business idea?
Take a number.
Americans haven’t stopped dreaming up newfangled gizmos or sketching engineering marvels on the back of cocktail napkins, but tight credit and business cutbacks have slowed the pace of getting the latest U.S. innovations to market.
Venture capital investments have plummeted. Lenders aren’t lining up to fund business startups. New patent applications are down at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, creating a budget crisis at the agency, which depends on money from fees to keep operating.
If patent fee revenue continues at its current rate, the office will end the budget year collecting about $100 million below projections. That puts the patent office in a Catch-22 situation.
After several years of hiring more than 1,200 patent examiners a year, the office has suspended hiring, trimmed overtime and made other cutbacks. This comes as the office and its 6,000 examiners are struggling to whittle down a backlog of 770,000 new, unexamined applications.
Photo by Associated Press.