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WASHINGTON — Can business students do what the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) has failed to do in recent years — find ways to eliminate the huge backlog of patent applications and the lengthy time it takes for final decisions by the USPTO? The UPTO has announced it is partnering with the George Washington University School of Business for its 2008 International Business Case Competition. The competition has brought together 18 teams of MBA students from around the world, each of which is presenting proposed solutions to the issues of patent pendency and backlog at the UPTO. Patent pendency is the amount of time it takes from the time a patent application is filed until the USPTO makes a final decision as to whether to grant the patent. The backlog is how many patents are currently waiting to be examined. Currently, the backlog stands at more than 760,000 patent applications, and the average pendency is approximately 32 months. The USPTO claims that patent offices throughout the world are experiencing similar problems due to the rapid growth of innovation and the increasing complexity of technology. “When George Washington expressed their interest in examining the USPTO’s pendency and backlog challenges as the case study in this competition, we saw it as a rare and exciting opportunity to garner new, fresh perspectives on how to address these important issues,” said Margaret Peterlin, deputy under secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and deputy director of the USPTO. George Washington Professor Jim Thurman, said, “MBA students are able to see concepts and relationships which may not be readily apparent to the people so close to the issues.” The teams were presented with the business case challenge in late February and have been working on their proposals and presentations since that time. A panel of judges, including USPTO senior management executives and business leaders from an array of industries including finance, technology, hospitality, consulting and others, will examine the final proposals and choose winning teams. The USPTO will have the option of developing and implementing the ideas.

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