The case is extraordinary in other ways, too, patent lawyers said. Because of the complexity of the technology, there are hundreds of individual claims covering various aspects of the five patents at issue, according to Jonathan Caplan, an intellectual property lawyer at Kramer Levin Naftalis and Frankel LLP, in New York. Under the circumstances, the agency is doing an admirable job, he said.
Several observers say the PTO needs more resources to do its job better. The government has been diverting the agency's funds to other purposes for ten years, according to Rambus' Richardson.
"You're expecting them to do a job that takes 40 hours in 35," Richardson said.
In recent years the agency has been allowed to keep the fees it charges and is beefing up its staff, according to Quinn. Its staff of more than 4,000 examiners grew by almost 1,000 last year and should gain 1,000 per year for the next four years or so, she said. The PTO has also made changes to speed up re-examinations, she said. Last July it formed a special unit of 20 specialized examiners to concentrate solely on re-examinations, which will take on all new requests for re-examination. All future re-examinations will be finished in a set time frame, expected to be two years, the agency said in July.