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Patent Office gives patent applicants option for accelerated examination. Basically, if the applicant does a decent patent search and provides the patent examiner with the search results and opinion, the examination will be accelerated to reach final decision within 12 months.; This is a major advance since most applicants WANT the examiner to review the most relevant art so that the patent is more likely to stand up in any court challenge.
http://www.uspto.gov/web/patents/accelerated/
US Patent Office receives 443,000 new patent applications.  Despite increasing fees, patent applications continue to be filed in ever increasing numbers.  In 2005, the USPTO received a record 409,000 new patent applications.
http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/annual/2006/50302_table2.html
The Korean Patent Office is now an approved Int. Search Authority for US filed PCT applications.  It is, in fact, the cheapest at $232 versus the US search fee of $300 and the much, much higher EPO search fee of $2059.
http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/sol/org/2006/week33/patpcti.htm
Trademark fees now up to $100 lower for electronic filing.  See our IP Trademark News.