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Patent Office Shows Record Backlog 236

Posted by michael
from the free-money-get-your-free-money-here dept.
acroyear writes "WTOP, 1500am, a news radio station in the DC area, is reporting that the Patent Office Is Seeing Record Backlog, with 2 years for a patent now, and potentially 4 years to wait by decade's end, and the PTO is considering a 15% increase in filing fees. Personally, I think if they had set a trend of actually rejecting patents that don't belong, they'd have sent enough of a message to keep application numbers to a reasonable level; right now, everybody files because just about everything can get one."
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Patent Office Shows Record Backlog

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  • Yeah... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CrazyDuke (529195) on Friday April 18, 2003 @01:49PM (#5760531)
    Yeah, and us poor schmucks who can't afford several grand in expences have to get a corporation to help and hope they don't screw us. Too bad I can't make any money off of these ideas I have. Innovation my ass.
    • Yeah, and us poor schmucks who can't afford several grand in expences have to get a corporation to help and hope they don't screw us. Too bad I can't make any money off of these ideas I have. Innovation my ass.

      Become a Patent Attorney. With this kind of glut there's going to be a strong demand for those who can wade through it.

      Excuse me while I get back to filling out my patent application for 'carrot and stick'

    • Re:Yeah... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18, 2003 @01:59PM (#5760634)

      Patents are meant to protect actual entrepeneurs, not just people that sit around in their parents' basement and "invent things". Once upon a time, the Patent Office required an actual working prototype instead of just Powerpoint slides.

      If you're one of those guys that likes to file a zillion applications for vague ideas and then hope to sue someone else that actually produces an independent product ten years later, I have no sympathy for you. You could at least look on your few grand as an investment in your extortion scheme.

      And if you have a useful idea and can actually put it into production, you'll need to start a company. A few grand for a patent application is peanuts compared to the cost of actually making anything out of some idea. Very often, the idea itself isn't actually the important part; the execution is.

      • Re:Yeah... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Xerithane (13482) <(xerithane) (at) (nerdfarm.org)> on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:37PM (#5760896) Homepage Journal
        Patents are meant to protect actual entrepeneurs, not just people that sit around in their parents' basement and "invent things". Once upon a time, the Patent Office required an actual working prototype instead of just Powerpoint slides.

        I have an idea I'm working on, hoping to get to the filing point within the end of the year. After building the prototype, I'll be out close to a grand. After filing, I'm looking at investing almost $8K on this idea. With only the hope that it will work.

        It is a major setback for inventors and entrepeneurs, as it gets rather difficult to do this without some decent backing. Luckily, I have a few people who like my idea and will be helping out after I show the prototype.

        It still is difficult to do, more so than it should. What I would like to see is that your first patent sets (for a specific project, limit to) should be provided free, then additional patents for a seperate project should be very expensive. You get a good, easy one shot for a good idea, and if it sucks, it's hard to do it the second time.

        And if you have a useful idea and can actually put it into production, you'll need to start a company. A few grand for a patent application is peanuts compared to the cost of actually making anything out of some idea. Very often, the idea itself isn't actually the important part; the execution is.

        To bring any idea to fruitation, you should look towards spending upwards of $10K. The sad part is, most of this is filing fees and seldom goes into building the actual device. After the prototype I can contract to a firm to make the devices for probably $100 a piece, and marketing will bring it to $150 (Or less, if I sell over ebay...) and I can easily make $50 profit on each item, assuming they sell.

        So, I have to sell approximately 100 before I even cover the filing fees. Great fucking deal.
        • Wow, can I get your filing fees? Then, I'll go ahead and file your patent, as a small entity, for a whooping $500. That's selling *10* devices, not 100. And if you can't sell 10 of them, then trust me, it's not worth patenting.

          Reality is, the Patent Office does try to make this affordable for small inventors. Almost everyone can swing $500 for filing fees.

          Now if you want to hire a patent attorney to write your application, well then you're looking at closer to $10,000. But, if you don't have the mone
          • Now if you want to hire a patent attorney to write your application, well then you're looking at closer to $10,000. But, if you don't have the money, but have the time, I highly recommend Patent It Yourself [nolo.com] by Nolo Press. It'll help you write your patent for a grand total of $40. So, with filing fees, Assignments, and postage, the exercise might cost you $600. That's 12 of your devices at $50 profit. Not too shabby.

            I know several people who have gone both ways, and they each say that patenting
      • Yeah, but usually you have trobule SELLING that idea/producrt to a company with out a patent! Making a proto-type (or in modern days a concept presentation) and patenting something not so you can sue, but so you can SELL is a valid buisness plan. There are a lot of "think tanks" that make big bucks this way!
  • Assumptions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RealityMogul (663835) on Friday April 18, 2003 @01:50PM (#5760536)
    everybody files because just about everything can get one

    Now we've all seen plenty of stories where stupid patents have been granted. But I don't think we're getting the entire picture. If they grant thousands of patents a year and we only see 20 stupid patent articles, then maybe they aren't doing the terrible job we're assuming they are. Maybe they are rejecting patents but we just don't hear about it because companies don't publicize their rejections.

    I'm not claiming to have first-hand knowledge of the USPO but it's food for thought.
    • thousands (Score:4, Interesting)

      by metalhed77 (250273) <andrewvc AT gmail DOT com> on Friday April 18, 2003 @01:56PM (#5760592) Homepage
      e. If they grant thousands of patents a year and we only see 20 stupid patent articles

      According to this http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ido/oeip/taf/u s_stat.pdf the US Govt granted 166,000 patents in 2001. It's quite amazing how many they have to go through.
    • Not a patent but a trademark [despair.com], but it's the same USPTO [uspto.gov] providing the quality service.
    • Actually, we see far more than twenty stupid patent articles a year, but what's more important is that the only ones that we see on /. and other major tech sites are the ones that interfere with other businesses, like the various "I own the internet" sort of patents on linking and online stores that have been issued to several different companies. There are many other patents that are awarded for very stupid things that are physically impossible or will obviously never see the light of day, but those aren't
    • Re:Assumptions (Score:3, Informative)

      by Eloquence (144160)
      Continuing Patent Applications and Performance of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office [researchoninnovation.org] shows that the patent statistics from the US PTO are deceptive, and that the actual patent allowance rate has been as high as 95 percent (in the examined period from 1993 to 1998). "Grant rates were just as high, reaching a maximum of 97 percent." This is a much higher level of patent acceptance than in Europe and Japan. The authors conclude that the US PTO currently grants a patent "for virtually every original applicati

    • If they grant thousands of patents a year and we only see 20 stupid patent articles, then maybe they aren't doing the terrible job we're assuming they are.

      Imagine if you tested an additive on 10000 cars and found that 9980 cars get better gas milage,
      but the remaining 20 cars exploded once they reached 55 MPH.

      Patents don't cause cars to explode, but they can do plenty of damage to companies, even if they're eventually invalidated.

      -- this is not a .sig

  • by interiot (50685) on Friday April 18, 2003 @01:55PM (#5760571) Homepage
    I work for a large corporation, and they encourage every employee to try to create 4 patent proposals a year. Coworkers have submitted many proposals, but I don't know in my local group who's gotten a patent all the way through... I don't konw how much rubber-stamping the USPTO is doing given that our legal department is rejecting 90%+ of our submissions.
    • Not anymore, but I worked for a fortune100 company through the 90s. We had invention disclosure forms (spit out three of those a month) followed by draft applications for the USPTO (lucky to get one of those every year or two) followed by actual applications, followed by issued patents.
      I have 8 applications in my name, and two patents issued in my name (jointly - the whole project team in each instance)
      Are the inventions worthwhile? Not in the slightest. But collectively, the sizeable (400ish?) portfo
  • by corebreech (469871) on Friday April 18, 2003 @01:55PM (#5760578) Journal
    Those bastards!
    • I have irrefutable proof that Iinvented the log itself in the year 1900. My working model is a DOS box that made Zork available over a token ring net I forgot about in the basement.

      I demand half of whatever you win in your infringement case. If not I will sue; half a semester of high school business law should be enough for me to win without hiring real lawyers.
  • The converse? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cybermace5 (446439) <g.ryan@macetech.com> on Friday April 18, 2003 @01:56PM (#5760584) Homepage Journal
    We are so quick to rush to judgement. Perhaps even reversing cause and effect?

    Maybe the frivolous patents are a result of everyone bum-rushing the Patent Office. There might not be enough time to scrutinize every patent that comes in. Of course this encourages more frivolous patents, making it even harder for the Patent Office to give each patent its due care.

    It's an interesting tactic: flood the Patent Office with useless requests, making it impossible for individuals to get their life's work patented. The longer an invention remains unpatented, the better chance of duplicating and marketing someone's idea before they have the chance (because you have all the production capabilities already). Vague patents and lawyers can keep away those who decide to challenge, and most will probably accept a small settlement.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18, 2003 @01:56PM (#5760586)
    That way, the filing fees can remain low, but valuable patents (which in theory may require more protection) will pay the government for that protection. Something like 1% of profits on the invention. So, a million dollar idea would get the government $10,000 in exchange for the patent protection. If your idea never makes you money (say over $1000), then you don't need to pay it.
    • Why in the world should the government have an automatic percentage stake in something I invent? That would be penalizing someone for being successful, not to mention encouraging even more tax fraud.
    • Hey, that's great, except a patented idea that makes no money is still patented. Companies already patent bumloads of things that they never actually use because even if you don't use it, your competitor can't either (without licensing it from you). Patents are already being used more as a cudgel against competition than as a way to protect inventors; your idea would only make it worse.

      There aren't going to be any easy, simple answers to these problems.
    • There is already a mechanism somewhat along these lines, although not tied to any sense of "value" of a patent. Patent holders must pay annual maintenance fees to keep the patent active, otherwise the coverage will lapse. Many patents are abandoned this way if they prove to not be commercially (or otherwise) valuable. The USPTO is fairly lax about how late maintenance fees can be paid, but if a company perceives value in a patent they are very likely to keep paying longer to keep it active.
    • by werdna (39029) on Friday April 18, 2003 @09:05PM (#5763065) Journal
      The United States Patent and Trademark Office fees have been paying for significantly more than the cost of operating the Office for many, many years now. Instead of turning those funds into additional resources, the federal government has for years, through administrations both Democratic and Republican, siphoned off the surplus, and then some, for general revenues.

      In other words, inventors are paying for our tax cuts already -- not the other way around. Want better examinations? Tell the government take its mitts off the fees. Right now, the fees are paying for our wars.
  • Is it possible that since patents take 2 years to be granted and time before your granted one is increasing, people might be filing more frivolous patents just because the time gap to profit with their innovation is decreasing. It would be better if the PTO hired was a group of 40-50 people consisting of IP/patent professors and industry people who would be consulted whether the patents submitted are valid or just a time waste.
    • It would be better if the PTO hired was a group of 40-50 people consisting of IP/patent professors and industry people who would be consulted whether the patents submitted are valid or just a time waste.

      Did you read the article? There are 2900 examiners right now and they want to raise fees so they can hire 3500 more. How can adding 50 people possibly help with the backlog?

      • Your right. But the question here is also about frivolous patents. When granting patents, there are many grey areas. The academics and industry people can help reduce the load in this case. I might have been wrong about the numbers

        The fees should be raised but also note that in an article a few months earlier, it said that the USPTO is one of the few departments of the govt that is raking in huge profits compared to the spending required. There is pressure on the PTO to keep those margins.

        related artic

  • Good and bad (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hegemony (104638)
    Good - The two year wait may discourage the frivolous inventions we see, like say This one [crazypatents.com]

    Bad - Delays all the great technical inventions that are obsolete in a month
    • Good - The two year wait may discourage the frivolous inventions we see, like say This one [crazypatents.com]

      Frivolous? Maybe, since it's only force-sensing. Now, if it were force-feedback, think of the possibilities in the VR world...

  • how many (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ih8apple (607271) on Friday April 18, 2003 @01:59PM (#5760624)
    Anyone have any idea how many of these backlogged patents are stupid attempts to cash-in on common ideas?

    Like this [wired.com] patent on linking...

    or this [pcworld.com] patent on floating banners...
    • 142,475
    • The patent on linking won't fly--if it holds up in court, nobody will pay attention but Prodigy. BT can't sue every company and individual with a Web site.

      I suspect, though, that it won't fly for a different reason--nobody's selling links. I'm not carefully crafting a hyperlink, then selling it to you for use on your Web site. You're making links for your own use. Just because some damned corporation has a patent on musical condoms doesn't mean I can't make one to use next time I bend that corporation's CE
  • Fee Schedule (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WPIDalamar (122110) on Friday April 18, 2003 @01:59PM (#5760625) Homepage
    I think the way fees are done for the patent office should be changed. Something that rewards good patents, and penalizes bad ones.

    $patentCost = (some constant);

    while( patentIsRejected() )
    {
    $patentCost *= 2;
    }

    And then we need to reimplement patentIsRejected() to something like:

    1) flat-out-reject anything that's already patented.
    2) reject anything with prior art
    3) Have a QUALIFIED examiner spend some time looking it over.
    4) Have a certain public review periond (6 months?) that anyone can register complaints
    5) Review complaints (possible reject)
    6) Have another, different qualified examiner check it out for an extended period of time.

    • "And then we need to reimplement patentIsRejected() to something like:"
      • 7) Reject anything from Amazon.com

    • Re:Fee Schedule (Score:5, Informative)

      by angle_slam (623817) on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:09PM (#5760698)
      I think the way fees are done for the patent office should be changed. Something that rewards good patents, and penalizes bad ones.

      Good patents are already rewarded: they are enforceable and can be licensed. Bad patents can be challenged.

      1) flat-out-reject anything that's already patented.

      That is what the patent office does already.

      2) reject anything with prior art

      Already done.

      3) Have a QUALIFIED examiner spend some time looking it over.

      Examiners are assigned to the various units based on their qualifications. In other words, a chemist examines chemical patents, an electrical engineers examines circuit patents.

      4) Have a certain public review periond (6 months?) that anyone can register complaints

      That's the whole point of the publication process. Before 2000, patent applications remained secret until they were issued. Now, they are published 18 months after filing. The public can look at the applications and submit prior art references.

      5) Review complaints (possible reject)

      See above.

      6) Have another, different qualified examiner check it out for an extended period of time.

      All examiners have a supervisor.

      • Re:Fee Schedule (Score:5, Informative)

        by ivan256 (17499) on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:18PM (#5760759)
        2) reject anything with prior art

        Already done.


        NO IT'S NOT!

        I'm sick of people with no clue spouting this shit in slashdot comments and getting modded up to propagate this incorrect information.

        Repeat after me: You can patent things that have prior art.

        In fact, it's completely allowed and the prior art is usually documented right in the application. A patent does NOT mean the holder has exclusive rights to everything in the patent. It only gives them exclusive rights on the claims that exceed the prior art. Half the time I see people bitching about some silly patent on here, they fail to take this into account.

        Please people, before you go spouting off about prior art in patents, make sure you know what you're talking about and that you didn't get that information from a slashdot comment that was posted by somebody who could be a clueless toddler for all you know.
        • 2) reject anything with prior art

          Already done.

          NO IT'S NOT!

          I'm sick of people with no clue spouting this shit in slashdot comments and getting modded up to propagate this incorrect information. Repeat after me: You can patent things that have prior art.

          You are talking about something different from what the original poster said. Two of the more important criteria to getting a patent are novelty [cornell.edu] and non-obviousness [cornell.edu].

          You are correct that a patent "only gives . . . exclusive rights on the claims that ex

      • The patent office doesn't reject applications when there is prior art. The submitter of the application is "required" to do a search on their own for things that might constitute prior art, and include them in their application, but the patent office doesn't do its own search and reject applications that have already been done. Basically, this requirement is unenforceable, and the fact that the patent office doesn't do this search themselves is very likely the reason for most frivolous patents.
        • The submitter of the application is "required" to do a search on their own for things that might constitute prior art, and include them in their application

          Wrong. An applicant is not required to do any search at all. If an applicant has done a search, they are required to submit the results to the patent office (37 C.F.R. 1.56. Sorry, no direct link available). But there is no requirement for an inventor or applicant to perform a search.

          but the patent office doesn't do its own search and reject applicati

      • As to your response to #3 - I think this is one of the most important points, and the one where your response is incomplete. As an engineering law professor at Northwestern once told us, patent exmainers are usually going to be the least skilled graduates in their areas of expertise. Don't believe me? Well, take a look at these two links:

        First this http://www3.uspto.gov/go/jars/sgs.html [uspto.gov]
        then this http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ahrpa/ohr/jobs /gradelevels.htm [uspto.gov]

        So if I've got a degree in Chemica
      • Good answers. I'd like to add two thoughts about why we all seem so unsatisfied with the software and business method patents.

        First is that the examiners at the USPTO primarily use the applications and granted patents in their collection to search for prior art, so in these fields (which were only recently, in patent terms, patentable) there isn't a lot of history.

        Second, while the number of applications is way up, the number of examiners hasn't changed much. The amount of time available for each examin


    • First, I was mainly commenting on how I think it should get more and more expensive the more times the patent needs to be submitted. This will put a financial burden on bad patents that try to get pushed through, and give a reward for ones that make it on the first try.

      The silly method for rejecting patents was just that, silly. I didn't really mean for people to focus on that!

      Third. That being said, I think the function to determine patentability should be a boolean one-time shot. So if it doesn't pa
      • Third. That being said, I think the function to determine patentability should be a boolean one-time shot. So if it doesn't pass the patent for any reason (bad patent, improperly filed, not enough details, etc.) the cost for that patent doubles. There shouldn't be any "Please clarify section X" or "Section Y is too broad, please update" ... we restart the process every time.

        In a sense, the costs do increase when a patent application is rejected. If rejected, a patent attorney will have to correct it, spen

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:00PM (#5760643)
    Got fired from your rebate handling job [slashdot.org] because you were too slow processing applications? Fear no more! Get a job at the patent office!
  • Abolish? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rarewire (636787)
    I think there should be a study to determine how harmful it will be for the society if we move to abolish the patent system altogether. I have doubts whether the benefits of having the current system can outweigh the disadvantages like the chilling effect on innovations coming from individual or small company sources.
  • by Cyclone66 (217347) on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:02PM (#5760651) Homepage Journal
    If you submit an excessive amount of 'frivolous patents you should get fined... a lot, or even better, your patents get reviewed with a lower priority until the 'quality' of the patents goes back up.
  • by bittmann (118697) on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:06PM (#5760683) Journal
    From the article:


    Last year the office issued an average of more than 3,000 patents a week. It is one of the few federal agencies that brings in more money than it spends.

    Some of that money is siphoned off to other agencies _ more than $630 million since 1992.


    The Patent Office has a positive cash flow. They actually take in more in fees than they consume, with the excess being diverted to non-productive (from a patent standpoint, anyway) agencies.

    So, *of course* the only way for them to process more patents per time unit is to raise the fees.

    Yes, I do realize that there are most likely mitigating factors (dealing with problems of expansion, etc.) that come in to play, here, which would make a noticable jump in speed more expensive. But, initial inspection of the problem does tend to make me think "plow the profits back in to the organization. Make *more* profits that way. Remember: The more we process, the more we *generate* here..."

    Or could it possibly be an idea of "raise the fee enough to drive off all of these pesky little inventors...thus reducing our workload."

    Nah...they wouldn't think that way...would they?

  • by syntap (242090) on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:07PM (#5760688)
    The PTO is a fully fee-funded organization. BUT... all the fees they collect go to Congress, who then gives back _A PORTION_ (100%) to the PTO for its operations. If the PTO were allowed to keep 100% of its current fees (without helping balance the rest of the Federal budget with them), the fees probably wouldn't have to go up.
  • Record Patents (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stargoat (658863) <stargoat@gmail.com> on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:08PM (#5760695) Journal
    Individual efficiency in the workplace has been geometrically rising for the past century and a half. Population has also been geometrically rising dramatically for the past century and a half. Therefore, the number of patent requests also be geometrically rising. Since government bureaucracies tend to be sticky in their use of technologies, it shouldn't be any surprise that there are a record number of patents applications with a large backlog.
  • by A Guy From Ottawa (599281) on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:08PM (#5760697)

    For their sake I hope they don't let it get to the 4year mark...

    Patent #45560986 Granted to Guy F. Ottawa on April 1, 1999.

    Description:
    The process of providing a service to individuals (or businesses) who's end result is not conveyed for 4 years (1460 Days).

    • As long as they wait 1459 days or 1461 days or any other total number of days other than 1460, they're not in violation of the patent.

      Should have hired a better patent lawyer to draft that one.
    • The process of providing a service to individuals (or businesses) who's end result is not conveyed for 4 years (1460 Days).

      Boy, this guy's a genius. 4 years = 1460 days? I assume that most of us know that there's one leap year (almost) every 4 years. :P
  • The PTO is considering a 15% increase in filing fees.

    Yeah that's the solution... let's make it even harder for the average joe to submit a patent... that's the problem. Those damn garage hobbyists doing nothing but submitting applications. The nerve. It couldn't be the corporations who don't care how much you charge and submit hundreds of applications a month...
  • by raehl (609729) <raehl311 AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:23PM (#5760796) Homepage
    I'm fairly involved in the paintball industry, and I've had occasion due to 10% need and 90% need to procrastinate to read/skim the vast majority of patents related to paintball.

    99% of them patent something useful in the industry. Maybe the USPTO drops the ball more often when it comes to software, but there's still a lot of patenting that goes on out there for just regular old "stuff"; genuine, true inventions. Even if you DID manage to find a way to prevent the frivolous patents from getting there in the first place, they're probably less than 5% of the total workload. Maybe 1 or 2%. Because patents are freaking expensive.

    Just keep in mind that the way Slashdot "News" articles can make the world look (Many events happen twice! ;)) may not necessarily be the way the world really is. I'm willing to bet that the backlog is 98% due to growth of the economy/country rapidly exceeding growth of staff at the USPTO.
  • Let the patenet office grant as many patents as it wants (so long as they are basically relevant) then *if* the patent is ever relevant (and only about 1% of them are) THEN it can be debated in court.

    Of course we need provisions to stop companies with patents forcing individuals to stop something, and using their size and finances to win the court case.
  • by MyNameIsFred (543994) on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:41PM (#5760929)
    Personally, I think if they had set a trend of actually rejecting patents that don't belong
    I understand the hatred of many business method patents. I believe they should not be allowed. However, according to this article [com.com] 65 to 70 percent of business method patents are rejected. Up from a rejection rate of 30 to 35 percent.
  • USPTO is a cash cow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cenonce (597067) <anthony_t.mac@com> on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:42PM (#5760941)

    People need to understand that the USPTO is a cash cow for the Feds. It made somewhere along the lines of 400 million dollars for the Feds in 2002.

    It has done that, in part, by actively encouraging the general public to file for both patent and trademark applications. It has implied to the public that it is easy to go through the application process. It also has a lopsided bonus structure for examiners that encourages quantity, not quality. While I was a trademark examiner, I could have made up to $20,000 per year in bonuses for the quantity of my work, but only about $3,000 dollars for the quality of my work. Does that make any sense if you do not want stupid patents and trademarks being issued!?!

    The USPTO has implemented a new strategic plan that will restructure how the PTO handles both patent and trademark applications. Most people in the field believe that this restructuring will increase pendency and decrease quality. You can read the PTO's annual reports [uspto.gov] and the 21st Century Strategic Plan" [uspto.gov]

    So it should be no surprise that filings are going way up and pendency is going way up along with it... and that more mistakes are made and more garbage gets through. It also should come as no surprise that the PTO has a vested interest in making sure people believe that they can file applications on their own. So it offers "online filing", "online searching" and other tools that are really a poor substitute for having a complete search done by an attorney (or a patent agent). There is no question that some people don't want to put out the money for a professional search, and are willing to chance the money they lose in filing fees. That's fine. There are also those who earnestly get the impression that all they have to do is "file an application" and they will get a registration. Like most things in life (and especially with the government), it rarely works that way.

    -A

    • by mavenguy (126559)
      Well, when I was a.... patent examiner (left in '91) Almost all incentives (Awards, Outstandings) were based on super "Process Numbers", like Production >= 110%, Almost no amended cases over two months, etc. Yes, there was a "Quality" element tht was needed for an outstanding rating, but the way this worked, You wouldn't even be considered for anything beyond fully successfull if your production wasn't >= 110%, And the plan was weighted so that you couldn't get outstanding overall if production wasn't
    • Quantity not Quality should be the capitalist moto.
  • by nrrrdboy (95022) on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:53PM (#5761034)

    03.02.26.we | Non-Novel Patents [goatee.net]

    In addition to the alarm about the unruly expansion of copyright [goatee.net], an outcry over an offensive software or method patent is surfacing nearly every week now. But the storm is not yet upon us, these are merely the first chunky hail stones: it can, and probably will, get much worse.

    Patents are supposed to be novel, useful, and non-obvious. However, these are rather subjective criteria that require the discretion of knowledge, experience, and good judgment. Such attributes belong to those skilled in an art, not to bureaucratic institutions. (Witness how those administrative functions formerly administered by John Postel, a skillful and respected Internet elder [harvard.edu], are now bungled [thestandard.com] by ICANN, the bureaucracy now responsible.) However, we have no great patent arbiter, only a governmental process and this has led to a focus on, and misunderstanding of, prior art by computer professionals.

    The question of novelty and non-obviousness is proxied by a mechanistic process of push and pull between a patent applicant and patent examiner. An examiner, on his own judgment, can not easily dismiss the application of a proprietary interest worth, potentially, millions of dollars. He can only ask, "how is your claim different than this prior art." Once this dance is done, a court is not likely to disregard the patent's novelty as documented in its file wrapper (the exchange between the applicant and examiner) and the resulting claims.

    In the narrowest construction, this process of emulating good judgment with respect to novelty and non-obviousness works: the resulting patent claims are more narrow than the initial application with respect to some existing works. But in the sense of promoting innovation and the "useful arts and sciences" of computer software and networking, it is a huge failure.

    As I've mentioned before [goatee.net], "Good technology, often created through simple processes, lends itself to applications unforeseen by its designers." As Lessig, in The Future of Ideas [stanford.edu], amply demonstrates this principle is what makes the Internet and Web such an innovative force when as expressed as layered end-to-end architecture. To adopt his metaphor, our common roads permit arbitrary journeys; our private cars permit us to traverse our chosen paths. Much like the Internet and Web, there are no patents or controls on the roads that determine where you must go. (There are rules such as which side of the street to drive on, much like networking protocols [harvard.edu], but these don't affect your destination.) It would be a shame to loose this flexibility, and this is just what the patent system encourages: claims that combine our common infrastructure and abilities in "novel" ways.

    It's as if roads and driving themselves are recognized as an important infrastructure and ability, but someone could patent using a car on a road to drive to my house. Is using a car on a road to drive to my house really that novel? The Patent and Trademark Office can not make this judgment well, it will only look for prior art of someone previously, explicitly, specifying this exact method in the past. Perhaps they will find the method of driving to my house that I've provided [reagle.org] on the Web. The applicant might then amend their application such that they have a claim for a car, on the road, driven to my house using a stick shift, and a new claim for the same using automatic transmission. The claims have been narrowed and there is no previous exact d

  • Minor quibble, but I've noticed that /. postings often say 'CNN is reporting...' or 'The N.Y. Times says...,' when in fact the link goes to a story written by one of the news wires, like the Associated Press or Reuters. In the case of this posting, it's AP reporting the Patent Office backlog, not WTOP radio.
  • Higher fees won't stop the big companies, for whom (1) the actual filing fee is a small proportion of the total cost of a patent, and (2) patents are as good as cash in a world where the companies sign contracts with each other granting them permission to use patents en masse.

    In contrast, the average citizen with a great idea and not a lot of cash lying around will be the one harmed by higher fees. In that case, I wonder, who are patents for?

    Look at it this way: they are proposing to raise filing fees

  • I suspect they need the opportunity to get up to speed with technology and processes that will allow them to take the extra work on. However, they probably can't, because someone else holds the patent on the technology and process that they need to make things better, stronger and faster! ;-)
  • I filed an elegant and cost saving answer to the solution - but I want to make sure it is patented... they said it should get through in only 3 years.
    I feel like I'm helping.
  • Patent Office Woes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by porslap (472285)
    IEEE Spectrum magazine's Invention Department has been covering the patent backlog for the last few months, and the PTO's plans to do something about it. It's a matter of personnel--you have 3400 examiners looking at over 400 000 patents currently pending, with maybe a quarter million new ones coming in over the transom every year. The bloat of business method patents and software patents is particularly crippling, and the PTO's plan to out source prior art searches isn't going to solve the problem. Davi
  • So they need to reduce the number of applications filed each year? Easy. Reduce the incentive to patent. If they reduced the number of years that a patent could be held to 15 instead of 20, fewer patents would be filed, right? If not, it would at least prove that reducing the duration of exclusive rights to intellectual property does not reduce the incentive to create, and could potentially be used in the battle against copyrights (to prove that longer copyrights are unnecessary).
  • Everytime a patent/Napter/e-book or other intellectual property-related story comes up, I see a great deal of posts that indicate the poster leans against strong IP protection. I wonder - how many slashdotters, like myself, think IP is a bogus concept altogether?
  • It's all those goddamn useless "As Seen on TV" products! I.E. There is a product they're selling on TV right now that, picks up eggs!!!

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