Bush Administration officials are putting the finishing touches on a controversial plan to revamp patent processes, including increased fees for the multi-claim applications typical of life sciences inventions, and out-sourcing of prior-patent searches.

Fees rose an average of 25 percent in January, but the increase did not take the form feared by opponents of the plan when it was announced last June by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). As originally proposed, the USPTO fee hike was designed to punish those whose patent applications contained multiple claims.

Industry opposition squelched the punitive fees, which would have hit particularly hard in the life sciences. Another fee hike, which is expected to raise the office's annual revenue to $1.5 billion, will find its way into the Bush 2004 budget plan, scheduled for release February 4, but this year's fee proposal does not treat multiple claims as per se abuse of the...

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