The GAO discussed: (1) patent examination issues at the Department of Commerce's Patent and Trademark Office (PTO); and (2) examined the fees that the PTO and the U.S. Copyright Office charge for their services. The GAO noted that: (1) PTO patent pendency statistics do not provide inventors and decisionmakers with enough information; (2) reported pendency depend on the computation method used, type of invention, filing date, and the amount of time it takes for patent applicants to answer additional requests for information; (3) calculating pendency using the patent filing date significantly increases pendency; (4) three-fourths of PTO funding and staff were devoted to the patent process in 1995; (5) since 1986, PTO annual obligations have increased from $212 million to $589 million, an average annual increase of 20%; and (6) PTO examines patent applications and computes pendency differently from its counterparts in other industrialized countries.
The GAO also noted that: (1) the U.S. Copyright Office's fees do not fully recover the cost of copyright registrations; (2) the U.S. Copyright Office could generate additional revenue by increasing the copyright registration fee; (3) the U.S. Copyright Office's hiring process has been adversely affected by a settlement that requires it to revise its competitive selection process; and (4) the U.S. Copyright Office's actions in response to the settlement have resulted in prospective employees taking other jobs and added additional costs to U.S. Copyright Office operations.