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In June, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office raised a trial balloon on a three-tier patent processing regime that would let its richer customers get faster patent reviews by paying more for the privilege. It sounds like a bold move, at first, one that would happily upend the patent office’s sacrosanct first-come, first-served queue. But any thoughtful company that plays the patent-getting game should see that this tactic will not fix the nuts and bolts of a system that makes the process of protecting innovations just plain wasteful.

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