The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office doesn’t require a major overhaul, but it does need to take “decisive steps” to ensure that funding shortages and outdated policies do not hinder innovation, said the National Research Council in a new report released last week.

The report cites increased competition among businesses to file and enforce patents as a key reason the patent office is swamped. Among the problems the office faces: a backlog of 500,000 patent applications and an influx of approximately 350,000 new applications a year.

The council — which is a nonprofit institution created by Congress in 1863 to advise the government on scientific and technical matters — said it fears that those numbers will continue to rise, eventually overwhelming patent examiners and “degrading the quality of their work.” Some critics of the patent system say that has already happened.

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