Archive for the “Patent Office” Category

 

Eric Reeves, erik.reeves@acclaimip.com, of AcclaimIP and FreePatentsOnline published some interesting statistics today. To see the whole post go to http://www.acclaimip.com/2015-us-patenting-statistics/. In addition to the statistics, Eric found some superlatives of interest… here they are (BTW, pray you are never on a jury having to decide on Claim 1 of Bristol Myers patent US8957203):

Following is a list of patents that stood out in some way. These are always fun!

275 Claims
Patent US9053485 Security monitoring system with image comparison of monitored location, had more claims than any other patent granted in 2015.

67 Pages
Patent US8957203, “Hepatitis C virus inhibitors,” from Bristol Myers Squibb Co, describes a chemical compound containing 286,267 letters (including spaces). Claim 1 is the longest claim of 2015, and requires 67 pages of single-spaced 12-point text in a Word document.

More Than 40 Years Pendency
Patent US8947977 for “Fusing arrangements” was filed in 1974 and granted on February 2, 2015. The patent is for a system of arming a warhead and the prevention of premature detonation–surely under a security arrangement. Interestingly, since this patent was filed prior to the 1995 TRIPS agreement, the patent still enjoys 17 years from grant date. It will expire in 2032, a whopping 58 years after it was filed.

555 Family Members
Patent US9066081 “Video encoding/ decoding method and apparatus for motion compensation prediction” from Toshiba Corp has 555 members in its simple family. Interestingly it was the only, and maybe last, member granted in the family claiming a 2002 priority date.

47 Citations
Design Patent USD722608 “Display screen with graphical user interface” from Microsoft has been cited 47 times since it was published in February 2015. This patent covers the design of the tiled interface used on Window phones.

787,824 Words
Patent US8952217 is a mouthful. With 787,824 words, it is the longest patent granted in 2015. The PDF contains over 81MB of data, and has 1342 columns. If you read the patent, (and I suggest you do instead of that two-week vacation you’ve been planning), you’ll also notice that “lengthy tables” are only included by reference. In reality the patent is even longer!

61 Inventors
Patent US9081501 “Multi-petascale highly efficient parallel supercomputer” from IBM was to say the least, a group effort. 61 unique inventors, mostly from Yorktown Heights, NY, got together and came up with this one. They get the AcclaimIP“Collaboration and Partnership” award for 2015!

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Here’s a quiz. Raise your hand if you think an object held to a wall of a bottle with a clip is permanently secured to the wall. Nobody? Suppose I make this more clear, don’t you agree that a “member … is considered permanently secured as claimed [since] it can be left permanently in the bottle by the user.” What, still nobody raising a hand in agreement?

This nonsense argument about what “permanently secured” means was, of course, put forth by a patent examiner, not by me. And not only did the examiner take this position in an office action, but also the examiner maintained this position when the applicant appealed the to Board of Patent Appeals. Said the examiner: “the term ‘permanent’ is broad and does not impart any structure over the attachment taught by Goff, i.e, one can choose to keep the attachment between the bottle and the vent permanently.

At least the BPAI gave the examiner a dope slap in this case, but the real issue is that there is something wrong with a patent system where the examiner can push an applicant into the additional expense of an appeal or RCE (Request for Continued Examination) on such irrational grounds. And this is not an isolated case. I had one client receive an office action equating a terminal attached to a computer to a client computer in a client-server relationship. And another client receive an office action equating the key functional element of his invention to an element that was not even part of the cited prior art (think of having a camera with a  flash unit  rejected because some other camera patent described the sun as the source of light)

Examiners get away with this terrible behavior, and other behaviors that cost the applicant time and money to get good patents allowed, because there is little or no quality control system at the patent office. Oddly enough, just a few short years ago, the lack of quality examination was the root cause of too many bad patents being allowed. One really felt that, with just a modest effort, you could get any application through the system.

At that time (2004) Adam Jaffe and Josh Lerner wrote INNOVATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS: HOW OUR BROKEN
PATENT SYSTEM IS ENDANGERING INNOVATION AND PROGRESS, AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT. When the book was published, I didn’t much like their suggested “what to do about it”; now I’m beginning to think it wouldn’t be all so bad.

The heart of their proposal is to remove the presumption of validity that issued patents currently enjoy and instead make the patenting process more of a registration process, with validity to be determined later for those patents that someone cares about. That type of a change would be true patent reform.

Although the odds of such reform ever happening are nil, I’ll discuss what such a system could look like in a future post.

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For all of you who are wondering where patent reform is… as Deep Throat said in “All the President’s Men”: follow the money. Or, in plain English, while the House and Senate patent reform bills are quite similar in most respects, the current sticking point in ironing out a compromise measure is MONEY. Wow, what a surprise.

In case you didn’t know, the patent office is supposed to be funded by the fees you pay. The dirty little secret is that the PTO is not allowed to keep all the fees it takes in. Instead, its annual budget is set by Congress and for many years the budget it can spend is noticeably lower than the fees it takes in. “Fee diversion”

Where do these “excess” fees go – to the general coffers, of course, to be spent on, say, a little war here or there or bridges to nowhere in some Representative’s district.

Think about that after you wait for 2 years for your first office action.

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Just over a week ago the PTO announced the start date of their latest attempt at improved service:  the “Track One” prioritized examination program, which was scheduled to begin May 4, 2011. Of course, this $4000 shakedown to deliver the service the PTO should have been delivering anyway would have benefited larger/better funded entities to the detriment of the rest of us.

Today, however, PTO Director Kappos announced that Track One was off-track for now, supposedly due to the deficit reduction provisions in the recently passed budget bill. Several other planned service improvements have also been put on hold. According to Kappos:

Effective immediately and until further notice:

  • Track One of the Three-Track program, which offers expedited patent examination and was scheduled to go into effect on May 4, 2011, is postponed;
  • The opening of the planned Nationwide Workforce satellite office in Detroit, as well as consideration of other possible satellite office locations, is postponed;
  • Hiring—both for new positions and backfills—is frozen;
  • IT projects will be scaled back;
  • Funding for Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) outsourcing will be substantially reduced;
  • Employee training will be reduced;
  • All overtime is suspended.

In addition, business units will be required to reduce all other non-compensation-related expenses, including travel, conferences and contracts.

Arguably part of the problem is that the PTO is not run as a self-supporting independent agency – the operating budget of the PTO is determined by Congress, independent of the fees collected. Thus, the six-month-late budget that just passed limited the PTO’s plans without regard to whether these new activities would be budget-neutral.

In any case, the hiring freeze, the overtime suspension, the reduced IT improvements, and the reduced employee training can only make matters worse for anyone trying to obtain a patent.

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