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.

Shifting cases in the queue will not stem the unnecessary time and money that is now lost in our outdated and breathtakingly inefficient system for prosecuting patent applications. In fact, the three-track proposal looks like a grab for more fees from some applicants, while not fixing the inefficient, imperfect work that many people see as a patent office hallmark. The patent applications will be moved around in the work queue, but will the work be done better or faster? Are the consumers of what the patent office sells supposed to find this inspiring? It’s dumbfounding, when you think about it.

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