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Patents Government United States Your Rights Online

Patent Office Ramps Up Patent Approvals 101

Posted by Soulskill
from the this-can-only-end-well dept.
An anonymous reader writes "With the somewhat disappointing Bilski ruling behind us, people concerned about overly broad patents should be looking at what's going on at the US Patent Office. Due to various other Supreme Court decisions and lots of bad publicity, the USPTO had gone on a 'quality binge' for a few years, rejecting a lot more patents than usual. However, with new leadership, it appears that the USPTO is back to its old tricks and approving a ton of patents (at an unheard of rate) in a misguided attempt to get through the 'backlog.' Get ready for another round of patent lawsuits on patents that never should have been granted."
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Patent Office Ramps Up Patent Approvals

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  • by Zocalo (252965) on Friday August 20, 2010 @05:56PM (#33319974) Homepage
    Just pay the patent examiners a bonus based on how many patents they successfully manage to reject, including any appeals that might be raised against the rejection by the original submitter. It'll incentivize the patent examiners to get through the backlog, and, if the bonuses are funded by an extra "patent examination fee" that is only refundable in the event of a succesful application, it'll cut down on the frivolous patent submissions at no extra cost to the taxpaper as well.
  • by Grond (15515) on Friday August 20, 2010 @06:49PM (#33320350) Homepage

    Just pay the patent examiners a bonus based on how many patents they successfully manage to reject, including any appeals that might be raised against the rejection by the original submitter. It'll incentivize the patent examiners to get through the backlog, and, if the bonuses are funded by an extra "patent examination fee" that is only refundable in the event of a succesful application, it'll cut down on the frivolous patent submissions at no extra cost to the taxpaper as well.

    Most patent applications are rejected at least once already, often they're rejected twice.

    Anyway, what you suggest would be a terrible approach. The result would be that examiners would reject everything, gamble that the applicant doesn't want to waste time and money on an appeal (or would lose anyway), and collect their bonus. And it's a good bet that a lot of applicants would simply let the application go rather than appeal: the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences already has its own 20 month-and-growing backlog [patentlyo.com], and the cost of an appeal is typically thousands of dollars.

    And the PTO isn't stupid. There are performance metrics in place that try to ensure that examiners aren't rubber stamping applications with either 'reject' or 'allow.'

    Finally, the PTO doesn't cost taxpayers a dime. It's already fully funded by applicant fees, and in fact Congress often skims off excess fees. In total Congress has taken over $900 million that way. A bill was recently passed to give something like $120 million of that back to the PTO for the purpose of improving its IT systems and hiring more examiners.

  • This is good news (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 20, 2010 @08:05PM (#33320804)

    The faster patents are approved, the faster their ridiculous nature will be exposed. Let there be so many patents that it becomes impossible for anyone to do anything. On that day corporations themselves will probably want an end to all the bullshit.

  • They already do... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Friday August 20, 2010 @08:55PM (#33321070) Journal

    The patent office should do it like the insurance companies do it. Reject every single application on first submission. Find some detail that is just cause for rejecting it, and stamp a big red X through it.

    They already do. It's termed a "non-final rejection" and occurs at least once for many applications. Sometimes the rejection is merely for non-compliance with some formality. However, it is often because the examiner found prior art which appears relevant. The applicant is thus required to provide a response, pointing out how it differs from the prior art, and possibly with amendments to the claims to delimit them appropriately.

    Of my 15 granted US patents, I think only 3 or 4 went through without at least one non-final rejection. In a few cases, the examiner turned up quite relevant art and there was a significant revision needed for the claims. In a few others, the examiner had conflated different meanings of a particular word, and it was merely necessary to point out that my application used it in a very different sense to the art cited by the examiner (example: spectrum meaning a set of colors or wavelengths simultaneously present in a beam of radiance vs spectrum meaning frequency content over a finite time interval of a time series or signal). FWIW, my patents all involve hardware.

  • by ControlsGeek (156589) on Friday August 20, 2010 @09:24PM (#33321224)

    The U.S.A. cannot compete with 3rd world, Eastern European, and Asian labor rates for manufacturing anymore. Their GNP is closely related to Intellectual property which can easily be 'stolen' without strong intellectual property laws. Knockoff products and cloned trademarks are eating into American's livelihoods. Outsourced manufacturing of commodity products serves to teach foreign factory owners how to improve quality and target higher end goods and production methods. I support strong intellectual property laws with fair royalties to compensate knowledge workers for their labour.

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @12:03AM (#33321824)

    Of my 15 granted US patents, I think only 3 or 4 went through without at least one non-final rejection.

    Looking at this from the other side, the first-action allowance rate is even lower than that. Probably much lower. Virtually every application has *something* wrong with it, and most of them get prior art rejections.

    Examiners and attorneys both usually dislike first-action allowances in general. For examiners, it suggests that the search might have been incomplete, and rumors persist that first-action allowances are a red flag to our quality control people. For attorneys, it suggests that they weren't aggressive enough in writing their claims and that they missed out on some claim scope they otherwise could have obtained. However, there are some cases where the applicants aren't interested in claim scope at all (especially when the application is assigned to the federal government) and they file really really detailed claims for which no prior art rejections are possible.

"Bureaucracy is the enemy of innovation." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments

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