Obama: USPTO systems are outdated. (is this news to anyone?)

<div class="posterous_bookmarklet_entry">
				<p>President Barack Obama told technology executives today just how behind the times the government is.</p><p>"Believe it or not, in our patent office -- now, this is embarrassing -- this is an institution responsible for protecting and promoting innovation -- our patent office receives more than 80 percent of patent applications electronically, then manually prints them out, scans them, and enters them into an outdated case management system," Obama said a today's Forum on Modernizing Government.</p><p>"This is one of the reasons why the average processing time for a patent is roughly three years."<br /></p>

			</div></blockquote><div class="posterous_quote_citation">via <a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/76055-obama-patent-offices-system-is-embarrassing?sms_ss=posterous">thehill.com</a></div>

While I'm not the least bit surprised by this admission, I have to think that at least certain aspects (electronic -> print -> scan) do seem ripe for automation. Even if you'd need to take all the examiners offline while implementing the system, the net gain in time seems like it would offset the lost of productivity during the transition. The trick is to find a way to budget for overhauls such that long term gains aren't hamstrung by a large up front capex. Some things just can't be done gradually.