From an Interactive Week story on the U.S. patent issuing process: "As the technological ferment in the U.S. grew wildly effervescent at
the end of the 1990s, the number of patent applications relating to the
networked world exploded. But the USPTO didn't have the staff or
budget to meet the challenge. As a result, experts say, patents that
shouldn't have been granted were given USPTO approval, and patents
that should have sailed through spent too much time lingering on the
desks of overworked examiners."
June 18, 2001