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P atent examiners will lose a big chunk of their workload — searching for prior art related to applications — under a proposal announced Monday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Along with the job of examining applications, patent examiners currently search for prior art. PTO Director James Rogan said in a news conference that under his plan, applicants would have searches done by one of four sources: a private outside contractor; the patent office of another country; a country certified to do searches under the Patent Cooperation Treaty; or the PTO.

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