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Bush boosts US Patent office

The Bush administration's new budget plans to increase the number of patent examiners at the US Patent and Trademark Office by nearly a third. A further 950 examiners will be added to the current office staff of 3,200.

The staff increase is needed to help the office process applications before "the technology becomes baggage on the Mayflower," James Rogan, director of the patent office.

Under the budget plan, the patent office would get a 21% increase in funding to $1.365bn (£965m). The patent office operates from the money it gets from patent fees; under the proposed budget it would receive 100% of all the fees it collects.

The budget proposal also calls for a surcharge on patent applications, a move that if enacted as part of the overall budget would raise $45m (£31m) for the agency through fee increases. Patent applications fees would rise by approximately 19% and trademark applications fees by 10% under the plan.

The patent and trademark office receives about 350,000 applications every year. The average processing time can take over two years.

Patent examiners usually have engineering and science degrees with starting salaries ranging from $50,000 (£35,000) to $70,000 (£49,500).

Although the US government has had difficulty attracting top technology talent in recent years, Rogan said the current job market is making government employment more attractive.

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