Washington: The financial crisis has not only rattled the US economy but seems to have also choked innovations among the Americans, with patent filings declining for the first time in over a decade, in 2009.
The number of patent filings in the US dropped by 2.3 percent to 485,500 in 2009 as against 496,886 in the previous year, according to preliminary data provided by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
The drop in patent filings is reportedly for the first time since 1996 in which companies and inventors filed lesser patents year over year.
The year was a challenging one for the US Patent and Trademark Office as it saw decreased patent filings and maintenance fee payments.
"The Agency (USPTO) found itself in a financial crisis and was forced to freeze hiring, curtail mission critical programs and cut back in key efforts relating to the Agency`s mission," US Patent and Trademark Office Director David Kappos said.
"With 2010 promising to be another financially challenging year, we are focusing on both short- and long-term solutions to put the agency back on solid financial footing. We will be working with the administration, Congress and stakeholders to identify and implement those solutions," Kappos added.
Despite the financial challenges faced by USPTO in FY 2009, the patent examining operations increased first action productivity by 10 percent, while filings were slightly reduced.
In contrast, US patents issued to inventors and businesses in foreign nations jumped 6.3 percent for the year.
Most people attribute the fall in patent filings in the country to the recession and consequently, many firms are choosing to hold back on bringing new ideas to market until the economy improves substantially.
According to the Performance and Accountability Report for FY 2009 USPTO operations rely significantly on patent maintenance fees, which are the largest source of budgetary resources by fee type.
During FY 2009, maintenance fees collected decreased 2.7 percent to USD 15.1 million from FY 2008.
"As they are recognized immediately as earned revenue and budgetary resources, any fluctuations in the rates of renewal have a significant impact on the total resources available to the USPTO," the report stated.
To some extent, renewals recoup costs incurred during the initial patent process. However, the renewal rates for all three stages of maintenance fees decreased during FY 2009.
But, the report expects the renewal rates to rebound as the economy rebounds.