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Patent Office Ramps Up Patent Approvals

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the this-can-only-end-well dept.

Patents 101

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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The USPTO ain't a bus.... (3, Insightful)

scosco62 (864264) | about 4 years ago | (#33319844)

You don't have to pick up every rider ---- it's ok to say no, especially when it's in the broader interest to increase the quality and remove the backlog.

Re:The USPTO ain't a bus.... (3, Funny)

Nick (109) | about 4 years ago | (#33319860)

The USPTO is one big rubber stamp.

I say we Patent the Patent Office, and sue them. (0)

NRAdude (166969) | about 4 years ago | (#33320154)

We can sue them for violating our patent for recording and registering patents.

I already disclosed a prior post of my intention to buy the IP rights to 1984 the movie and then using RIAA and MPAA to sue United States. Christians can sue any company for violating their patents on the Book of Revelation, but they just seem too stupid to ignore the fact that Licenses and Certifications have only been tolerated since 1933 when Christianity has been in decline for another religion known as Apathy.

raising quality bar won't work (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | about 4 years ago | (#33320062)

Raising examination standards won't fix much [swpat.org] . The series of MPEG video formats [swpat.org] is covered by over 1,000 patents. If we raise standards massively, we can hope that it will only be covered by a few hundred patents.

Doesn't really solve much, huh?

Re:The USPTO ain't a bus.... (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | about 4 years ago | (#33320134)

Patent examiners aren't really allowed to reject on obviousness any way (there is no objective test for it in the end, the objective tests always basically come back to prior art ... which is to say, they are not so much tests as lawyer created double speak which redefines the word obvious). The patent office was rejecting a lot of patents, but it wasn't about quality ... it was either random or rejection based on technicalities. That kind of selectiveness just puts more money in the hands of patent attorneys, who know how the play the system, and makes it harder for smaller inventors to get patents through.

I personally think that as long as can't get a real obviousness test (which is to say, a purely subjective one) we should just forget about examination ... rubber stamp that shit.

Re:The USPTO ain't a bus.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33320490)

I got a better idea.

Lets make the patent office, and the filer, liable for big money if batshit stupid patents make it through. Better because patents and copyright are about enriching the community, anyone in the community (read Nation) is damaged by the granting of poor patents, there for anyone has standing to bring the matter to court. The EFF could fund it self just looking around the patent catalog and suing to get shit patents struck down.

Re:The USPTO ain't a bus.... (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | about 4 years ago | (#33320734)

The batshit stupid patents aren't the problem ...

The problem patents are all the technically valid ones.

Re:The USPTO ain't a bus.... (1)

WNight (23683) | about 4 years ago | (#33323234)

Patents are a brake on society, theoretically justifiable by a corresponding benefit to a subset of society (the inventors).

Considering it's us who foots the bill in the end we should tally up how much patents cost us in higher prices, ditch patents to recover the cost, then tax that recovered money and distribute it to the creators of the most-helpful inventions. (Judged by use in devices multiplied by the number of devices sold, research enabled, etc)

Then instead of a costly system, which screws up more often than it works - denying the inventor rights to their own creation, we'd have a relatively cheaply administered system where nearly all money went to the people who helped us, not the patent trolls and their lawyers. This sort of system would encourage people to share instead of hoarding, and because using those ideas would be free again, to use those shared ideas.

Best of all, the rewards could be given outside of the scope of the traditional patent system. Currently if you wrote a physics paper that changed the world and enabled great advances you'd get nothing - but if you patented some trivial piece of software (1-click for instance) you could make billions. Under the proposed system that physicist would get the same rewards as a traditional inventor would. Finally we'd be rewarding the people who do most of the work, instead of just the parasites with lawyers.

No joke! (1)

RingDev (879105) | about 4 years ago | (#33320338)

Can we please get the reviewers a new stamp that says: "REJECTED: Unintelligable"

When paragraphs are written in legalese and jargon for the express purpose of introducing vagueness they should be rejected.

IMO, if an 8th grader can't read the patent and paraphrase it well enough to explain it to someone in the field, it shouldn't be granted.

-Rick

Re:No joke! (1)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | about 4 years ago | (#33320526)

Obligatory Groucho:

This patent is so easy to read, even an 8th grader could understand it. Somebody find me an 8th grader.

Re:The USPTO ain't a bus.... (1)

trentblase (717954) | about 4 years ago | (#33320600)

No, it's more like a big truck that you just dump stuff on.

Seriously, though, this is less about a "backlog" and more about collecting sweet, sweet fees. I don't have mod points, but this guy [slashdot.org] explains it well.

Lawyers are scum (1, Offtopic)

grumpygrodyguy (603716) | about 4 years ago | (#33319856)

I really do hate this, 90% of politicians are lawyers.

They are an unchecked self-appointing cancer.

Re:Lawyers are scum (4, Insightful)

causality (777677) | about 4 years ago | (#33319920)

I really do hate this, 90% of politicians are lawyers.

They are an unchecked self-appointing cancer.

The remedy for this is simple enough. If a patent is found invalid by a court and also should never have been granted according to the USPTO's own rules at that time, then require the federal government to pay the victor all legal expenses incurred + any time off work for court + any travel expenses for court, times three, within 30 days of the official ruling.

I also believe that anyone found "not guilty" in a criminal case, or who has charges dropped, should be compensated the same way.

That introduces an element of apoptosis into the self-appointing cancer.

Re:Lawyers are scum (1)

SomeJoel (1061138) | about 4 years ago | (#33320038)

the federal government to pay the victor all legal expenses incurred + any time off work for court + any travel expenses for court, times three, within 30 days of the official ruling.

Where does the federal government get the money to pay for this? Oh, that's right, the taxpayers. So, the taxpayers will be paying for the mistakes of a poor USPTO system. No, I think a better solution would instead be to fire the patent officer responsible for approving it and immediately invalidate every patent that that officer had previously approved (even "valid" ones, if such things exist). I think after just a few of these, along with some big companies getting bitten hard by the suddenly invalidated patents, would cause quality control to skyrocket.

Re:Lawyers are scum (1)

causality (777677) | about 4 years ago | (#33320162)

the federal government to pay the victor all legal expenses incurred + any time off work for court + any travel expenses for court, times three, within 30 days of the official ruling.

Where does the federal government get the money to pay for this? Oh, that's right, the taxpayers. So, the taxpayers will be paying for the mistakes of a poor USPTO system. No, I think a better solution would instead be to fire the patent officer responsible for approving it and immediately invalidate every patent that that officer had previously approved (even "valid" ones, if such things exist). I think after just a few of these, along with some big companies getting bitten hard by the suddenly invalidated patents, would cause quality control to skyrocket.

I'm not against doing both though I'm not sure that'd be necessary. Our only difference is that I believe the government should repair any financial damage it causes to a citizen due to its incompetence. I believe that out of principle. If the principle is sound then a decent implementation of it can have a desirable effect. That means I can also give you a more pragmatic reason for my position.

Good legal representation is expensive. The corporations with deep pockets can already afford to litigate; if anything they are a bit trigger-happy. The government reimbursing people who incur large debt for this purpose has one effect: it means that more people have more access to a legal system that's supposed to apply equally to everyone. A person's willingness to litigate would then depend only on their confidence in their case. If they are clearly wronged and have ample evidence to prove it then the legal expenses would not stop them. They could not be bullied into an unwanted settlement by an opposition who knows they don't have the resources to pursue the case.

Re:Lawyers are scum (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 4 years ago | (#33320218)

Where does the federal government get the money to pay for this? Oh, that's right, the taxpayers. So, the taxpayers will be paying for the mistakes of a poor USPTO system.

Who is ultimately the party that will have to raise some objections for anything to change? Oh, that's right, the taxpayers. Maybe if they noticed that the federal government was wasting their tax dollars because the USPTO can't say no to any absurd patent they'd demand that the system be fixed.

Re:Lawyers are scum (1)

tsm_sf (545316) | about 4 years ago | (#33320314)

I think after just a few of these, along with some big companies getting bitten hard by the suddenly invalidated patents, would cause quality control to skyrocket.

Or cause people to not want to work for the patent office. They're already massively understaffed, and you'd like to introduce a program that would make this worse?

Re:Lawyers are scum (1)

MechaStreisand (585905) | about 4 years ago | (#33321188)

Why not? Then they'd grant fewer patents.

Re:Lawyers are scum (1)

KiwiRed (598427) | about 4 years ago | (#33322172)

Or, judging by their recent behaviour, they'd simply lower the bar for approval even further so as to improve their throughput without the need to hire more staff.

Re:Lawyers are scum (1)

MechaStreisand (585905) | about 4 years ago | (#33326636)

Well, hopefully not. But you're right, they could.

Re:Lawyers are scum (1)

shentino (1139071) | about 4 years ago | (#33321620)

True enough, however the money would still be coming out of the USPTO's budget for that year, and indirectly the salaries/perks of the examiners it employs.

Re:Lawyers are scum (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about 4 years ago | (#33320048)

You made the incorrect assumption that politicians care. They also don't mind passing the expenses to the tax payers.

Re:Lawyers are scum (1)

blai (1380673) | about 4 years ago | (#33320110)

who watches the watchmen?

Re:Lawyers are scum (1)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | about 4 years ago | (#33322038)

who watches the watchmen?

As a matter of fact, I've created a device that would do just that! Just gotta file my patent, and I'm good to go!

Re:Lawyers are scum (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | about 4 years ago | (#33320598)

I also believe that anyone found "not guilty" in a criminal case, or who has charges dropped, should be compensated the same way.

And you thought there was already too much drive to convict, regardless of guilt, in today's legal system!

Re:Lawyers are scum (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | about 4 years ago | (#33323072)

What about fining the person who applied for the invalid patent and then tried to enforce it? Or the patent attorney who didn't do his/her job?

Re:Lawyers are scum (1)

Ant P. (974313) | about 4 years ago | (#33323508)

The remedy for this is simple enough.

Yeah, telling an unrelated group of people how the cancer could go kill itself. You're a genius!~

Re:Lawyers are scum (2, Insightful)

Elektroschock (659467) | about 4 years ago | (#33320060)

I mean, by common standards a corporate lawyer of the largest software patents client who becomes head of the USPTO, that simply smells corruption.

In the United States no one seems to care.

The patent system is anti-free trade, it should be abolished altogether, it is merely about useless bureaucracy.

Re:Lawyers are scum (0)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | about 4 years ago | (#33320160)

It's not a useless bureaucracy ... sure it's corrupt, sure it actively slows down innovations and hurts consumers and society in general ... it still benefits the US in it's current situation. Greater product innovation won't help the US one damn iota if everything is still produced abroad, at least now some of the huge trade deficit flows back in the form of licensing fees ... not nearly enough of course, but it would be far worse without patents.

Re:Lawyers are scum (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | about 4 years ago | (#33320552)

The patent system in the US doesn't matter if countries like China violate the patents in China. While the US is still the largest economy, China is set to surpass it in the next decade.

Re:Lawyers are scum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33322888)

Patent law is stricly territorial.

If Us companies do not apply for a patent in Belgium everyone is free to apply the US-patented technology in Belgium.

Patent law does not discriminate foreign or domestic inventors but the respective domestic legislators a define patent laws and rules for a national market. There is no divine right to a patent, they are just market related monopoly grants for 20 years.

Re:Lawyers are scum (1)

causality (777677) | about 4 years ago | (#33320266)

I mean, by common standards a corporate lawyer of the largest software patents client who becomes head of the USPTO, that simply smells corruption.

In the United States no one seems to care.

The patent system is anti-free trade, it should be abolished altogether, it is merely about useless bureaucracy.

They can't care about this. So few cared about a corporate executive from the world's second-largest oilfields services corporation becoming the USA's vice president, only to have this company benefit extensively from government contracts due to a war prosecuted by the same administration. Cheney giving a few "favors" to the company with which he was so thoroughly involved would be cronyism, a form of corruption. I'd say vice president is a higher office than head of USPTO. If they don't care much about corruption there, then they won't be worried about the USPTO.

Re:Lawyers are scum (0)

sumdumass (711423) | about 4 years ago | (#33328742)

Whether Cheney was in office or not, that company would have seen the same benefits from the wars. Claiming that he steered benefits to them is a bit crazy as it has been pointed out time and time again that the infrastructure involved was already in place under different presidents including Clinton and Haliburton also carried the best bid once the bidding was opened.

You are being fooled by your own ignorance and will to remain under that spell.

Re:Lawyers are scum (1)

causality (777677) | more than 3 years ago | (#33383154)

Whether Cheney was in office or not, that company would have seen the same benefits from the wars. Claiming that he steered benefits to them is a bit crazy as it has been pointed out time and time again that the infrastructure involved was already in place under different presidents including Clinton and Haliburton also carried the best bid once the bidding was opened.

You are being fooled by your own ignorance and will to remain under that spell.

The fact that multiple officials in high office had connections to this company prior to one of its executives becoming an official in high office only illustrates the revolving door that exists between well-connected large corporations and politicians. That doesn't contradict anything I've said. In fact it reinforces it.

This is exactly what Eisenhower warned us about when he talked about the advancement of the military-industrial complex. From this speech [h-net.org] :

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.


That speech was given in 1961. I'll leave it up to you to reconcile what I am talking about with the fact that a fairly sharp politician saw it happening and beginning to establish itself 49 years ago. Of course that won't be as easy as claiming that I'm "under [a] spell" but it will be far more worthwhile.

Re:Lawyers are scum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33321718)

Maybe it's time for a Judo-like maneuver. Instead of resisting, which we don't have the power to do, let them have everything they want and then quickly step out of the way while the full force comes charging at you.

It'll make the lack of respect for the law that we already have (speeding, pot) even more extreme. If we're lucky, they'll quickly bring it to the point where you can't take a picture without filling out 10 forms in triplicate, which nobody will actually do. The emperor won't merely be naked, he'll be wearing a dog collar and getting pissed on in the public square. Trouble is, he may actually be into that...

Brisk! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33319858)

Ahh nothing like setting potentially devastating precedents at breakneck speeds eh USPTO?

USPTO (1)

scosco62 (864264) | about 4 years ago | (#33319890)

They have been singing the same tune for 4-5 years anyway; Bilski was a distraction. It's won't go away, until someone significant gets burned badly; then it will be a big deal. Give it another 2-3 years.

Re:USPTO (2, Insightful)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 4 years ago | (#33320024)

...until someone significant gets burned badly

Consumers and small innovators get burned badly already, but large corporations seeking government protection from competition have a "gentleman's" agreement (defensive portfolios and cross licensing) to not cause each other severe harm. Sometimes you see saber rattling like the Oracle/Google conflict, but that is just theater as they collude on how certain markets will be split between them.

Re:USPTO (1)

walshy007 (906710) | about 4 years ago | (#33321928)

I for one would like the oracle/google fight to become a complete bloodbath.

It stands a chance of highlighting the ridiculousness of the system as is, and failing that oracle needs to get slapped down by someone for their business practices. If they successfully take out google, IBM, samsung, etc etc will all be next. It makes sense for them to support google and attack oracle.

For once Mutually assured destruction would be lovely to see enact, especially if it's all against oracle.

Re:USPTO (1)

Thing I am (761900) | about 4 years ago | (#33320044)

Somebody should sue the USPTO for infringing on a patent for awarding patents.

Re:USPTO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33320322)

zOMG you're going to get a patent on patenting things!!! LOLZORS that joke never stops being funny!

Re:USPTO (1)

Thing I am (761900) | about 4 years ago | (#33321244)

Is this the best you have or does it get better?

Re:USPTO (1)

shentino (1139071) | about 4 years ago | (#33321628)

Yo dawg...

The head was interviewed on NPR yesterday (5, Informative)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about 4 years ago | (#33319972)

Scary guy. Not so much evil as purely misguided in his efforts. He thinks that all those 700000 odd patents on backlog represent American jobs that aren't being created, because the patent doesn't exist. At that point, all I can think about is the high-tech patent wars, and how the only people they keep employed are lawyers. I guess, technically he is right: more patents mean more jobs. But only for patent lawyers and patent appraisers. Unfortunately, he didn't seem to get the distinction, and was incredibly enthusiastic about his drive to get more patents approved.

Re:The head was interviewed on NPR yesterday (2, Insightful)

uniquename72 (1169497) | about 4 years ago | (#33320118)

He thinks that all those 700000 odd patents on backlog represent American jobs that aren't being created

He doesn't believe that. But "jobs" is the new "terrorism", where if you want funding, you make your case using that as a starting point. The guy's a top-notch beaurocrat, who knows where his bread is buttered.

Re:The head was interviewed on NPR yesterday (3, Insightful)

tool462 (677306) | about 4 years ago | (#33320316)

That's what I got out of the NPR interview. He wants to grow his department to get through the backlog of patent applications and trying to sell this growth to Congress and the public as job creation.
It will create jobs for the new patent examiners he'll need to hire, but I'm not convinced it would do much beyond that.
As I understand it, date of filing gives you the protection you need if you're confident your idea won't be rejected. No small business owner is going to submit a patent, then wait around three years before trying to bring it to market.

Re:The head was interviewed on NPR yesterday (1)

smokin_juan (469699) | about 4 years ago | (#33322256)

"It will create jobs for the new patent examiners he'll need to hire, but I'm not convinced it would do much beyond that."

Depends. Anyone willing to organize enough job seekers to spam the USPTO's inbox with the resumes of ten thousand patent rejectors?

Re:The head was interviewed on NPR yesterday (3, Interesting)

ControlsGeek (156589) | about 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:The head was interviewed on NPR yesterday (1)

Yaa 101 (664725) | about 4 years ago | (#33322790)

This is a (stupid) gamble that will be lost, there isn't enough money to defend this gamble with military power, look around and let reality sink in.

For crying out loud... (3, Interesting)

Zocalo (252965) | about 4 years ago | (#33319974)

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.

Re:For crying out loud... (1)

xonen (774419) | about 4 years ago | (#33320302)

That's flawed. 'I', as white board criminal, would file insane amounts of patents just to get them rejected. My 1o1 with the patent officer to split the profit would make me rich.
Less worse case scenario is that the officer 'only' is black mail-able.

Re:For crying out loud... (2, Insightful)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | about 4 years ago | (#33320560)

The fees from those rejected patents would come from your patent application fees. Fail.

Re:For crying out loud... (4, Interesting)

Grond (15515) | about 4 years ago | (#33320350)

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.

Re:For crying out loud... (1)

butlerm (3112) | about 4 years ago | (#33321486)

Finally, the PTO doesn't cost taxpayers a dime

No, it is the patents they issue that cost taxpayers far more dearly. We would probably be better off if the PTO was a smoking hole in the ground.

Re:For crying out loud... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33321634)

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.

Everybody wins!

Re:For crying out loud... (1)

devent (1627873) | about 4 years ago | (#33322312)

The result would be that examiners would reject everything

You sound like it's a bad think. In fact, less "intellectual property" would do the US economy right now wonders. Look at the fashion industry, there you have none "intellectual property", no copyright, no patents, and they doing quite well. Johanna Blakley: Lessons from fashion's free culture [ted.com]

But of course Cooperate America is now on it's best way to ruin that industry as well. The Costs of Ownership: Why Copyright Protection Will Hurt the Fashion Industry [designobserver.com]

Re:For crying out loud... (1)

knarf (34928) | about 4 years ago | (#33323166)

Finally, the PTO doesn't cost taxpayers a dime. It's already fully funded by applicant fees

Like most diseases, the infection comes for free. It is the cure which costs money.

Re:For crying out loud... (1)

WNight (23683) | about 4 years ago | (#33323338)

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

Unfortunately though, there aren't quality standards on the patents as a whole. It's entirely based on prior art, regardless of the complexity or how obvious it is.

The 1-click patent is a perfect example. Any web developer who could have written a standard "shopping cart" could rework it to work in a 1-click fashion without any technical help.

These low standards mean that literally any trivially new process can be patented. It doesn't matter how obvious it is, all the matters is if there's prior art. If something was just so obvious nobody bothered to write about it you can patent it. If you've got enough money for tens of thousands of patents applications you can camp on what everyone's doing, and yet add nothing of value to society.

Re:For crying out loud... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33323556)

Or just finally get rid of patents entirely. They were useful 200 years ago when it took years to roll out a product nationally.

The Constitution says "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." So the reason for it is to promote the progress of science and art by granting a temporary monopoly. The problem as I see it is those patents now hinder the progress of science and art. This was written when books were published by typeset printing presses. This was also before mass production of anything where you made your products by hand so it may take 20 years to make money on the product. Today you can make your money back on the first production run of anything. And you have a natural temporary monopoly by being the first to market.

I could make the same argument for copyright. The only recordings were written. Musicians had to make money by playing music live and actors had to make money by performing live not by a monopoly on recordings. The same should be true today.

What is really sad is I work for the federal government and I am always being pushed to patent my "inventions". Of course my inventions are usually just derived solutions to problems that come up. I don't think it's ethical for a federal employee that makes his money off of taxpayers to get a patent for work I do while under that employment. If anything all of our inventions should be made available as open source for the public that pays our salaries.

The charts and numbers given don't prove anything (3, Insightful)

Palestrina (715471) | about 4 years ago | (#33319980)

In particular, without knowing how many applications were rejected, we don't know whether the USPTO is approving a higher percentage of applications, or whether they have just increased up their processing rates.

And without knowing the number of patent examiners on staff over time, we don't know whether any increase in processing rates was caused by spending less time on each application (less scrutiny), whether they have hired more examiners, or whether they are using technology to process applications more efficiently.

Get all those facts, number of examiners, number of applications rejected, etc., and then you might be able to draw some conclusions.

Re:The charts and numbers given don't prove anythi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33321138)

In particular, without knowing how many applications were rejected, we don't know whether the USPTO is approving a higher percentage of applications, or whether they have just increased up their processing rates.

It would also help to know how applicants have been behaving over the last year. Have they been abandoning patent applications with claims that are too difficult to get through? If so, that would have meant that patent examiners have had stronger applications on their desks, and it would make sense that more patents applications would be allowed. 2009 saw an increase [uspatentstatistics.com] in application abandonments (perhaps budgets for intellectual property protection underwent greater scrutiny because of the economic downturn). Were weaker applications abandoned more often than stronger applications? Maybe.

It is worth nothing that the article contained a bit of misinformation in saying that "Because patent examiners were judged on how efficient they were -- meaning how many patents they were able to complete their analysis of in the short amount of time they had. So here's the problem: if you approve a patent, you're done. If you reject a patent, the inventor (well, the lawyers) get an unlimited number of times to change the examiners mind, resubmitting modified applications." This information isn't complete. An examiner receive credit when a patent application is allowed and when a patent application is abandoned. This includes when a patent applicant files a Request for Continued Examination (RCE). The amount of credit an examiner receives for multiple RCEs has diminished [ipwatchdog.com] , but an applicant who continues to make weak arguments could see an application rejected over-and-over again without ever receiving a patent.

Get all those facts, number of examiners, number of applications rejected, etc., and then you might be able to draw some conclusions.

Why base conclusions on facts when it so much more fun to jump [thinkgeek.com] to them instead?

Re:The charts and numbers given don't prove anythi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33321350)

The number of patent examiners has decreased slightly in 2010. The amount of time given to the examiner for each application was increased by 1-2 hours. The technology used has remained basically the same for the past 3 years.

Abolition is the only solution (4, Insightful)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | about 4 years ago | (#33320004)

Most patent stories on Slashdot are about silly patents, but raising standards will not solve our problem. Quality is just too hard to judge with something as abstract as software. A reduction of 50% wouldn't solve the fact that MPEG is covered by dozens of patents, and none of the people complaining about silly patents have proposed a way to raise the standards (not to reduce granting by 50%, and not even to reduce it by 1%). Now, we see that granting is still rising. We'll never get quality standards to catch up. The only way to win, and the only clean solution, is to simply cut software out of the list of things that can be patented.

Re:Abolition is the only solution (2, Insightful)

WNight (23683) | about 4 years ago | (#33323410)

That won't work. Not only is it wrong to abandon our fellow creators simply because we create executable math and they create physical devices, but that approach leaves us divided and vulnerable.

We need to band together to get rid of patents altogether. They're nothing more than corporate welfare. Like any welfare-mama, America's corporations sit back with their hands out, greedy for public money for something that isn't of value at all. We have patents because proponents have linked them to progress. We simply need to show how they're nothing but welfare, companies refusing to work because handouts are easier, and stop funding the system.

Patents are a horrible financial idea, costing society far in excess of the benefits they grant to creators, and at that - usually rewarding the "wrong" people. We simply need to force the patents-speed-innovation people to prove their claims.

Why I'm not against the whole patent system (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | about 4 years ago | (#33326024)

Abolish the whole patent system?

I've nothing against that suggestion. It would certainly achieve the aim of getting rid of our software patent problems. But, abolishing the whole system isn't my goal.

Software is different [swpat.org] in that it's an activity in which individuals and communities participate, and even when it's done within a company it's often done with a direct financial motive (the software can be a side effect of getting the real work done).

This means that regulations on software development/distribution translate to social problems (what can people do to help themselves and each other?) as well as economic problems (will we produce enough of X at a sufficient quality and a reasonable price?).

Patents on the manufacturing of cars are only an industrial regulation (mass production of cars is exclusively done by medium- to large companies). So there are only the economic problems to consider.

For production of cars, I don't know if patents create or solve economic problems. For software, I've studied the issue and I know that the problems (social and economic) are atrocious. So if you want to get rid of the whole system, you'll get no resistance from me, but for how I use my own time and resources, I'll focus them on abolishing *software* patents [swpat.org] .

Re:Why I'm not against the whole patent system (1)

WNight (23683) | more than 3 years ago | (#33438988)

abolishing the whole system isn't my goal [...] Software is different

No, it isn't. You've still got an idea that you aren't allowed to use because someone came along earlier and stuck a flag in it, claiming it for themselves.

You think software advances more quickly, but you've never seen mechanical development unfettered by patents. You think it's more-often used for direct gain but you've obviously never seen a farmer machine their own trailer-hitch, or a company have its engineering department fix a defect in their trucks' loading ramps, etc.

All patents are a restriction of your ability to develop what you thought of or seen. Your fundamental ability to manipulate the world around you.

but for how I use my own time and resources, I'll focus them on abolishing *software* patents

Totally the wrong way to go about it.

Look at what 'IP law' proponents say, things like "why doesn't software deserve the same protection as mechanical inventions?" Sure, software is intangible, but it's also the embodiment of a process. For all the differences you can draw, they can draw a similarity.

The problem is that society has been brainwashed by the rent-seeking parasites into thinking that inventions deserve monopoly control. But once they buy that, why shouldn't they extend the system to everything? And really, if we allow someone to claim a process because they reported that they did it to the government before anyone else did, why the hell not extend it to sexual positions, or chess plays as well?

As long as you want to take candy from all the kids in red shirts you'll have a problem, they'll see it as arbitrary and fight - when you remove the candy entirely it can work. Your arbitrary limits are no fair - if patents exist and have all these problems already why shouldn't they also cover software where they're just a little worse? To them you might as well be saying you want to ban vehicular patents but leave the rest, for the arbitrary nature of the distinction you make.

Instead, when they ask "why can't we patent software" if you say "because patents are a violation of the right to invent" you won't be trying to defend your arbitrary line in the sand.

Explain how a world without any patents allows you the freedom to make anything you can, if you invented it or merely saw it somewhere else. How a world with patents means you and your neighbor can both invent something but because his paperwork goes through faster than yours you don't even have the right to use your invention outside the lab.

Too many business owners have heard "patents are good for business" and blindly pursue them seeing only the immediate benefits to them without considering the cost to society, part of which is them. Without patents they might lose some fees, but without patents everything they buy would cost half as much. Without patents engineers could study competitors products, society would leap forward.

Re:Why I'm not against the whole patent system (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 3 years ago | (#33441590)

> You think software advances more quickly, but you've never seen mechanical development unfettered by patents.

Correct. I'm lacking in knowledge of mechanical development, just as I'm lacking in knowledge in pharmaceuticals. Isn't that a good reason for me to *avoid* proposing policy for these fields?

Software is something I know well and I've spent years looking at the effects of patents on software, so I'm confident in proposing policy there: no software patents.

You say that complete abolition is easier to explain than an arbitrary line in the sand, but I think that's contradicted by events in the last ten years. In the European Union the parliament voted in September 2003 to exclude software from patentability, but the whole directive was rejected in 2005. In New Zealand and Australia, the patentability of software is being questioned right now and New Zealand looks likely to abolish them. The European Patent Office held a consultation about this last year.

We've no big victories (yet) but the idea is being entertained and we've come within an inch of victory. As for abolishing the whole patent system, I haven't heard of any parliament in the developed world even starting a legislative proposal on that.

Re:Why I'm not against the whole patent system (1)

WNight (23683) | more than 3 years ago | (#33466846)

You say that complete abolition is easier to explain than an arbitrary line in the sand, but I think that's contradicted by events in the last ten years.

Yes, easier to explain, and to morally justify. And easier to rally behind.

I was at a Iranian-vote rally a while back. The rally - shouting things like "remove Iranian dictator" and "help save the Iranian people" walked right past a bunch of Tamil having their own protest, saying almost the same things, and neither group batted an eye. Too caught up in their own experiences to see how they could team up with like-minded people around them and maybe get something done. And today the Iranian still have their dictator and the Tamils are still in racial-segregated refuge camps.

We've no big victories (yet) but the idea is being entertained and we've come within an inch of victory. As for abolishing the whole patent system, I haven't heard of any parliament in the developed world even starting a legislative proposal on that.

I see what you mean, but you're fighting the sense of entitlement by telling some people they can't have a patent while giving one to the guy standing right next to them.

You've got to understand that we don't give out patents to help spur invention, that's just a story for kids. We give patents because rent-seekers demanded it and we've always caved-in for the shrill demanding ones. This means you can't fight software patents by showing they slow development because all patents do.

If they believe they're got a right to keep you from doing something simply because they were the first to do any given thing then they'll never give up. They're looking to patent everything. Why not, they think? Even if you win now they'll keep lobbying, and far more broadly.

It's like rejecting the Canadian DMCA-equivalent. For years we've said no in a variety of forms and rejected their proposals. So now they're looking to stick it in ACTA and force us to take it.

Yes, fighting all patents is a bigger battle, but only by stopping them in their tracks will it ever really be over. Otherwise they'll keep shoving software/math/business-model patents at you in various guises, all the while feeling totally entitled to it.

Only by convincing everyone that it's sick for someone to horde something like that will a lasting victory be achieved. Otherwise you'll win, maybe, in one or two areas but face endless political battles, and then the USA will force everyone to accept a treaty and you'll end up losing anyways.

So yes, continue to fight your battles too, but be mindful of the overall one. We're not safe as long as the government runs around handing out monopolies to anyone.

Metropolis (1)

Puzzles (874941) | about 4 years ago | (#33320006)

Such is the case with Kino International and Metropolis. With the recent restored version and amendment of previously lost footage, copyrights were apparently restored as well, despite the movie already having been of the public domain.

NPR story (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33320026)

NPR had a story about this:

http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/08/19/pm-patent-applications-jumped-up-during-recession/

Which includes this quote: "Each and every one of them represents an idea that could turn
into a business, a business that could create jobs."

I think that a lot of people think that patents and getting a patent a good things. They don't know our pain. I already gave them my opinion:

http://marketplace.publicradio.org/contact/

hmmm (1)

ProfessorKaos64 (1772382) | about 4 years ago | (#33320032)

Does this mean my patent for being able to see anyone for any damn reason will be granted?

Time to start hitting people with the banhammer? (1)

xenapan (1012909) | about 4 years ago | (#33320072)

Why can't they just stop accepting patents from the people who would just continually "revise" their patents? Just give it a hard cap. Say 5 revisions to get it right and after that it gets "released" to public domain. Give the people something to worry about or they will waste your time. This has always been the case. If you let people get away with unlimited revisions to bury you in paperwork, then you can expect for it to happen.

Excuse me while I go patent some random future tech... flying cars, teleporters, food replicators, AI.. yanno.

Re:Time to start hitting people with the banhammer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33320132)

I'm going to patent pissing while standing up. Sadly, I'd probably get away with it too ...

Re:Time to start hitting people with the banhammer (4, Informative)

Dachannien (617929) | about 4 years ago | (#33321772)

Excuse me while I go patent some random future tech... flying cars, teleporters, food replicators, AI.. yanno.

This is the stuff that's actually pretty easy to reject. We're not going to find prior art on it, but we can generally make rejections for the application lacking an enabling disclosure (if the invention is ostensibly possible, as with flying cars), or we can reject it for a lack of credible utility (as with teleporters).

As for do-overs, yes, applicants can keep paying us to continue examining their applications. They get two bites at the apple each time (with some caveats attached if the examiner makes a bad rejection), and then they are stuck filing an RCE (which costs money but buys them another two bites), appealing to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (which costs a lot of money, mostly to the attorney), or they can give up and let the application go abandoned.

There was a recent change in docketing procedure to examiners that prevents RCEs from "burying us in paperwork". It used to be that RCEs were docketed right along with regular amendments, and we had to work on every one of those within four biweeks of the date it was forwarded to the examiner. Now, it gets docketed on a separate queue, and we only have to pick up one RCE every month. When it comes to doing more work than that, we get to choose whether we'd rather do more first actions (new cases) or more RCEs. The Office is focusing on getting new applications in the pipeline, so we're being encouraged to do more first actions and let the RCEs sit there for a little while longer.

Re:Time to start hitting people with the banhammer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33324096)

Dude,

You should really only post as anon on here. The Office doesn't like examiners posting to tech boards. They especially don't like examiners posting to anti patent boards.

Examiner 1700

Thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33324142)

Thank you for this interesting post.

Just curious, have you ever had a chance to approve or reject a software patent? Did it present any special difficulties with regard to researching it? In particular, how did you find out whether there was prior art, and whether the claimed invention was actually non-obvious to a domain expert?

Re:Thanks (1)

Dachannien (617929) | about 4 years ago | (#33328940)

Yeah, we get software-related applications all the time, and usually, those applications are routed to people who examine that sort of thing nearly every day. We search them and reject them against the prior art the same as any other application. The requirements for patent eligibility under 35 USC 101 and the associated case law prevent the direct patenting of software, because software is not a method, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter. But there are ways to write the claims so that they're not directed to the software itself.

As for searching, we mostly use a searchable database of all 7.7 million issued patents plus all the application publications since 2001 (when publication of applications started). For non-patent literature, Google Scholar is a good tool, although we also have subscriptions to various other searchable databases for that stuff. We also have a few other databases more relevant to foreign patents, but a lot of those are abstract-only.

On a side note, the threshold for obviousness is not that a "domain expert" would find the invention to be obvious. Rather, it's that a person having ordinary skill in the art would find it obvious in view of the prior art. That's a higher threshold for obviousness than the skill of a "domain expert", because a person having only ordinary skill in the art would presumably find less stuff to be obvious, being less well-versed in the more sophisticated realms of the relevant art. Also - and this is why the Slashdotters' technique for patent examination doesn't fly - we can't just assert obviousness without showing evidence. We have to make at least a prima facie case of obviousness (such that the burden of proof shifts to the applicant, who then has to show why it isn't obvious), and that means citing references to cover every limitation in the claim and providing a rationale for the combination of those references. That's a pretty complex subject in itself, far more so than I could cover here. The controlling case law on the subject is the Supreme Court's KSR v. Teleflex, which draws heavily from their earlier decision in Graham v. John Deere.

One word... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33320150)

FUCK.

Some Thoughts (1)

Grond (15515) | about 4 years ago | (#33320152)

First, there's really little evidence that the rejection-equals-quality approach of the prior PTO leadership actually helped improve patent quality. Along those same lines, the higher acceptance rate is not the result of some edict to grant more frivolous or low quality patents. Instead, it's the result of re-aligning the performance metrics for examiners so as not to artificially promote rejections. Now, examiners are encouraged to work with applicants to find or draft allowable claims rather than fighting tooth and nail to reject the entire application.

Second, the scare quotes around 'backlog' are silly. There is a massive backlog at the PTO. Roughly three years worth of applications, in fact. It can take well over a year before an examiner even looks at an application. For a few areas of technology, it can take over three years. This is problematic for several reasons. For one, the longer an application sits in examination, the more technology changes around it. This encourages applicants to try to amend claims to cover technology that they really didn't invent or anticipate. A fast turnaround time forces prevents those kinds of shenanigans.

Another reason it's a problem is that the extreme long pendency coupled with the high turnover rate at the PTO means that it's entirely possible for examination to be completed by a different examiner than it was started under. This is especially true when you consider a broader patent family (e.g., continuations, divisionals, etc).

Yet another reason: the patent term in the US is now 20 years from the date of filing, except that the term will be adjusted in cases of Patent Office delay. It is now routine for issued patents to have a patent term adjustment of several months or even a year or more. If you think the patent term is too long, then the backlog is a problem. (And no, getting rid of term adjustment isn't the answer; it's wrong to penalize applicants because of delays in a bureaucracy that the applicants have no control over).

Rejections are apparently also up (2, Informative)

Grond (15515) | about 4 years ago | (#33320214)

While it's true that the absolute number of allowances has increased, the number of rejections has also increased, according to Prof. Dennis Crouch of PatentlyO.com [patentlyo.com] , who is a leading figure in empirical patent research. It's not as though examiners have simply started rubber stamping everything that comes through.

Re:Rejections are apparently also up (1)

WNight (23683) | about 4 years ago | (#33323430)

Of course not, they collect fees (which translate to promotions/rewards) from rejections too.

Revenue Issues (2, Informative)

Urgru (139637) | about 4 years ago | (#33320558)

The increased issuance rate is probably the result of PTO's money crunch. Unlike most agencies, which supplement funds appropriate by Congress with collected fees, PTO is expected to be entirely self-supporting. Application fees. Continuation fees. Maintenance fees. Service fees. Everything that PTO does has a dollar sign attached to it (here's the fee schedule [uspto.gov] ). Sometimes they don't even get to keep is all. Congress raided PTO's surplus several times during the boom to prop up the General Treasury. When rainy days came, companies started filing for fewer patents and some - gasp - even let patents lapse rather than paying their maintenance fees. As a result, PTO was forced to cut benefits dramatically. For awhile, overtime was off the table. The agency stopped paying tuition for examiners attending night law programs. Retention bonuses went away. Bad time to be an examiner.

The issuance boost means more continuations, re-applications, etc. along the way to approval = more revenue immediately. More importantly, PTO's got to issue nearly five patents to receive as much by way of maintenance fees in 3-4 years as they WOULD have received from an 11 year old patent that's been allowed to lapse.

Issuance rate won't (and from PTO's perspective, can't) go down unless or until Congress changes PTO's funding model or the economy turns around. Even if the economy gets better, it's going to take a few years for revenues to start increasing as the patents from the current glut start bringing in large maintenance fees and the issuance rate can go down without forcing staff cuts.

Suing the wrong people... (1)

meburke (736645) | about 4 years ago | (#33320590)

It seems to me that if we could sue the incompetent clods at the Patent Office they would be more conscientious.

if your gonna make an arguement against .... (1)

3seas (184403) | about 4 years ago | (#33320630)

...software patents, then consider how you will do so. [swpat.org]

Lawyers do not advance society in any way (2, Informative)

mykos (1627575) | about 4 years ago | (#33320772)

I have a feeling that the millions spent professional argument will help society neither monetarily nor in technological advancement.

This is good news (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#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.

Do it like insurance companies... (2, Insightful)

guytoronto (956941) | about 4 years ago | (#33320836)

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.

The ones that come back modified with more details are the ones that get a serious review.

They already do... (4, Interesting)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about 4 years ago | (#33321070)

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.

Re:They already do... (2, Interesting)

Dachannien (617929) | about 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:They already do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33324182)

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.

The examiner still did the right thing in your second case. Unless your specification explictely says 'Spectrum is defined as 'requency content over a finite time interval of a time series or signal', the examiner is suppose to take the term as its plain meaning or broadest reasonable interpretation in light if the specification.

The first interpretation seems reasonably broad. As an applicant if you want spectrum to mean the second item you can amend your claims or disclaim the other meaning in your arguments. This is to protect the public later on should you decide to use your granted patent that you can't later say oh I meant the first meaning.

How to stop patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33321454)

1. Patent the act of patenting
2. Sue the patent bureaus for patenting
3. Profit

What About The Wiki Idea? (1)

anorlunda (311253) | about 4 years ago | (#33322898)

Clearly, the USPTO will never get rid of that 700000 backlog satisfactorily. Their archaic approach can never succeed. Software types just don't have the same tradition of publishing their ideas the way that other fields do. Therefore, they don't create the paper trail that patent examiners rely on to make their decisions.

The most promising solution to this problem I've heard is to make it a kind of wiki. Online users could contribute to the wiki evidence of prior art. In this case, crowd sourcing seems like the right thing to do.

On the other hand a patent wiki might just bring out the worst from many people. Snark, misinformation, and partisan sniping might dominate. Even without that, the volume of work needed to properly research 700000+ applications is huge, maybe much more than the total effort spent to create Wikipedia. Appreciation and rewards for that hard work would be even less than Wikipedia because the contributors don't see their work posted prominently.

Other than a wiki, the only other systemic solution I can imagine would be legislation to sharply curtail the kinds of things that are patentable; thus invalidating 90% or more of the backlog with a wave of the pen.

What do slashdotters think?

US government should deny USPO to work (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about 4 years ago | (#33322918)

The USPO is effetively executing a law, but is clearly not able to do so. So the US government should deny the USPO their license to execute that law. This is nothing new. This happened in the Netherlands, for example, with an organization that oversaw the small private aircraft manufacturing.
US patent law is already the joke of the day world-wide, and it is long past due to start doing something about it. But that should be done.

Don't comment (1)

Skull_Leader (705927) | about 4 years ago | (#33324008)

I think the most humorous thing here is the number of people who comment on the operations of the USPTO, yet have no clue as to how the office is run, how the examiner's do their jobs, the metrics and constraints they are under, and the other issues that affect the quality and speed at which a patent is granted. It is not all Kappos, or the examiners, or the managers...but in part a system set up over many years that is a lot more intricate than one realizes, where actions are governed by laws created by congress, poor management of the past has left IT systems everyone uses on the skids, and attorney's contribute to the problem by doing what attorney's are trained to do: make things as vague and broad as they can for their client and then waste time and money arguing over a single word (and creating their own forms instead of using USPTO forms and thus creating issues, etc).

Is the system broken? No. What needs to happen are direct and succinct changes: fees need to go up, a priority on IT systems maintained until the examiners have tools they can really use efficiently and effectively, applicant's should be expected to use the specific forms created by the office and follow an application procedure with no deviation, the MPEP re-written in clean and clear language so people can find the answers they need, and no more pandering to the lobbying of corporate IP attorneys. This would be a great start. Until then the examiners will continue to do the best job they can under the circumstances placed on them.

Checks and balances (1)

Trip6 (1184883) | about 4 years ago | (#33324212)

We spent over a million dollars defending ourselves against a patent whose claims were so ridiculous we didn't even take it seriously. The problem was the patent troll got the patents through, then signed up 15 companies who were only peripherally involved with our space. With the 15 contracts in hand the troll came after us and another major player in our space. Total spent on prosecution and defense was over $7M, and all the claims were ultimately found to be obvious or prior art at a jury trial.

The problem is there is no interim step between a troll's stupid patent and a multi-million dollar lawsuit. There should be some way that an independent technical panel can evaluate the validity of a patent before huge sums are spent on legal fees. Wait, I just answered my own question.

We should get rid of all Patents! (2, Insightful)

flajann (658201) | about 4 years ago | (#33324984)

As one who does have a patent to his name, I have thought about this entire patent issue quite a bit.

The original intent of the patent was to give the lone inventor a monopoly over his invention in order to spur innovation. And it may have served that purpose once. But today, patents have taken on a completely different use -- the leverage for big deep-pocket corporations to beat up on other corporations and obliterate any possible competition from "the little guy", who could not possibly afford patent litigation.

So, it is my view that patents no longer serve it original intended purpose, and thus should be eliminated. Monsanto patents organisms and genes and uses that to force small farmers to buy their GMO seeds; Microsoft may use patents to beat down startups they deem as a threat, and so on.

Today, people will innovate whether or not patents exist. And most innovations don't ever see a patent, I think. It's just too expensive to procure a patent -- $5,000 to $10,000 -- and if ever someone -- even another little guy -- violated your patent "rights", you could not afford the litigation, anyway.

So let's abolish all patents and close down the USPTO!

Time for a Creative Commons style patent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33328214)

Patents, like copyright, can be manipulated. When a patent is owned by a corporation, who does it benefit? We can make the jobs argument, but how many new jobs were created by re-branding Prilosec as Nexium? How about Amazon's "Click to Buy" patent? No, the truth is, patents are as much about strategy as they are about protecting an individual investor. I say it's time for a Patent law overhaul.
1. Keep the protection for the individual, eliminate or reduce the protection for corporations.
2. Allow patents to follow a crowd-source model. If I can offer improvements based on an existing patent, and these improvements constitute a new product, should I be allowed my own derivative patent? I say yes.
3. Set up patent types. For example, medicine should available as generic derivatives after three years. Re-branding is a no-no.
        If a company charges too much during the patent period, the coming government health care oligarchy will protect profits. Limiting the time period will limit the governmental corporate welfare.
4. Software and software-based items should never earn a patent. Inventions are physical items. Software is intellectual property.

Finally, this should be a Constitutional Amendment. As we've seen with financial regulation, mine safety, and oil drilling, the government is easily manipulated. An Amendment is far harder to modify in the name of the economy.

not just junk patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33430780)

Though the patent law [aol.com] system certainly has seen problems with junk patents in the past, I don't think it's quite fair to say that the recent spike in patent grants necessarily means more junk patents. New USPTO Director David Kappos has made great strides in improving efficiency at the office, which also recently hired more examiners and won the right to keep more of its revenue (which had previously been siphoned off by Congress). This influx of money and talent has unquestionably contributed to the increase in the patent grant rate. Kappos has also voiced a commitment to improving patent quality. Let's hope he follows through.

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