From 2002 to 2006, one patent examiner left the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for nearly every two the agency hired, according to a report by the General Accountability Office, making it unlikely the agency can reduce a growing patent application backlog through hiring efforts alone.

The GAO, in a report to Congress, said the attrition represents a “significant loss to the agency” because 70 percent of those who left had been at the agency for less than five years and new patent examiners are primarily responsible for the actions that remove applications from the backlog. USPTO relies on a workforce of nearly 5,000 patent examiners — attorneys, engineers, and other scientific and technical professionals — to review and make decisions on patent applications.