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30% More Patents Issued in 2010 77

An anonymous reader writes "The numbers are in, and the US Patent Office granted 219,614 patents last year, which is 31% higher than in 2009 and 27% higher than any year in history. This wasn't just a marginal increase in patents being approved, but a major leap. US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and USPTO director David Kappos have both stated that one of their goals is to reduce the backlog in patent approvals, and it appears that the way they're doing so is by approving more patents, more quickly with less scrutiny — with a large percentage of them being software patents. This may decrease the backlog at the Patent Office, but seems likely to increase the backlog in the court system as lawsuits are filed over a bunch of these new patents."
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30% More Patents Issued in 2010

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  • Misleading stats (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @06:01PM (#34920984)

    Those stats are misleading. USPTO also processed 24% more applications in 2010 than 2009, so more allowances are expected. The allowance rate has remained around 45% since 2008, which is actually a drop from being over 50% for 2006-7. This compares favorably with the 49% and 48% allowance rates for the Europe and Japan, respectively. Allowance rate is allowed patents divided by total disposals.

    The USPTO has many problems but the allowance rate is not one of them. Quality and scrutiny of granted patents are likewise a focus of the office, with much improvement over the situation from several years ago. Read about it in the USPTO PAR.

    Source: USPTO Performance and Accountability Report (PAR) FY 2010 []. Look particularly at the chart on page 125.

    USPTO makes all sorts of patent data available. for one does a good job analyzing this stuff. Techdirt is more interested in making headlines than objective analysis.

  • Re:Patent Trick (Score:5, Informative)

    by Grond ( 15515 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @06:38PM (#34921444) Homepage

    He had to warn us though because companies will file multiple patents that vary slightly, but in the end don't work. They are there to hide the actual patent.

    Alas your professor must not know much about how patents work. There are several problems with this theory. First, filing multiple applications on slight variations is a good way to end up with an obviousness-type double patenting rejection. Basically, non-identical applications must also be 'patentably distinct.'

    Second, the inventors and the patent agents or attorneys are all under a legal obligation to "disclose information which is material to patentability." Lack of utility (i.e. the invention does actually work as claimed) is material to patentability and so must be disclosed. An attorney or agent that knowingly misrepresents a non-functional invention as functional is in jeopardy of losing his or her registration to practice before the PTO.

    Third, inventors must also "declare that all statements made herein of my own knowledge are true and that all statements made on information and belief are believed to be true; and further that these statements were made with the knowledge that willful false statements and the like so made are punishable by fine or imprisonment, or both, under 18 U.S.C. 1001 and that such willful false statements may jeopardize the validity of the application or any patent issued thereon." An application must make some claim to utility (and therefore functionality), so knowingly misrepresenting a non-functional invention as functional is illegal.

    Fourth, it's expensive as heck. Even if you only file in the US the filing fees, attorneys fees, and maintenance fees for a patent are in the tens of thousands of dollars. If you go international you can easily crack a few hundred thousand. If you file in every major jurisdiction you can easily get into the millions. That's per patent. The strategy you're suggesting is financially infeasible for such a minimal payoff, especially given the risks outlined above.

  • by Grond ( 15515 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @06:42PM (#34921492) Homepage

    The number of rejections is also at a record level. The Office is simply operating more efficiently after a couple of years of mismanagement. The rate of allowance is still somewhat low, historically-speaking.

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI