An anonymous reader points out a story at Ars about how the "significant reduction" in the backlog of pending patent applications may not be all that it seems. "...a new study suggests another explanation for the declining backlog: the patent office may have lowered its standards, approving many patents that would have been (and in some cases, had been) rejected under the administration of George W. Bush. The authors—Chris Cotropia and Cecil Quillen of the University of Richmond and independent researcher Ogden Webster—used Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain detailed data about the fate of patent applications considered by the USPTO since 1996. They found that the "allowance rate," the fraction of applications approved by the patent office, declined steadily from 2001 and 2009. But in the last four years there's been a sharp reversal, with a 2012 allowance rate about 20 percent higher than it was in 2009."