I know we are just past the holiday period – you know, peace on earth and good will toward men – but a couple of recent office actions have me convinced that patent examiners are anything but men of good will. How do they annoy me… let me count the ways I’ve seen in blogs etc.:
1) rejecting a claim with a “bouyant” flap because a similar flap in the prior art was a hydrofoil and therefor rose toward the surface [uh...only when moved through the water!]
2) rejecting a claim with a “translationally stationary” scanning element because a prior art scanner, which moved across the surface of an object, disclosed “a translational stationary scan mechanism with respect to said surface” – wait for it now – “in the vertical direction”. [Emphasis added]
3) rejecting a claim with a remote [microwave] imaging element because “as a radar guy” he thought the system doing the imaging OF the remote element.
4) rejecting an invention with removable legs because, the examiner stated,“the legs of [the prior art reference] are capable of being removed, even if it requires a blow torch.” [Emphasis added.]
5) Rejection of an invention that involved flexible padding because, again, with enough force even a steel plate is flexible. [Emphasis added.]
6) Rejection of a processing system that used a browser applet because the examiner equated the client-server relationship to a terminal on a mainframe.
The good news is that these dumb rejections are (generally) overcome…
The bad news is that overcoming them costs you, the inventor, money. Either in extended examination costs (i.e., having to have your attorney file an “RCE”, a request for continued examination) or by going before the patent office’s board of appeals.
In any case, these stupid examiner tricks are the result of bad management at the PTO, where examiners are not judged by the quality of their examinations (as measured at least in part by the validity of their office actions).