Posts Tagged: "Art Unit 3685"

Is there a Tide-Change in the Prospects of Patenting Business Method Innovations?

In the years after the Alice decision, it had seemed as though examiners in the business method art units felt as though their hands were tied with respect to issuing applications. Even if they had recommended an application for allowance, it was often sent back by quality review with an indication that a patent-eligibility rejection should be made or maintained. However, in early 2017 – at least with respect to a handful of applications – examiners’ perspectives seem to have changed, where they were more willing to work with the applicants to find eligible claim material and/or suitable arguments to be put on the record that would suffice for an allowance… While we note that the business method allowance prospects still remain substantially below those in other Technology Centers, the beyond-doubling of this statistic is of practical significance.

E-Commerce Art Units: Where Patent Applications Go to Die

Upon closer review things are much, much worse than I previously reported. The problem is also far more widespread. Using LexisNexis Patent Advisor®, I looked at the E-commerce Art Units, this time focusing on what has happened over the past 18 months. Focusing on this segment of post-Alice prosecution the allowance picture is utterly atrocious… Only 12 patents were issued by Art Unit 3689 in 2015, while 365 applications went abandoned, which corresponds to an allowance rate of 3.2%. So far in 2016 there have been only 3 patents issued by Art Unit 3689, while 232 patent applications have gone abandoned, which corresponds to an allowance rate of 1.3%.

What the Patent Office Refuses to Understand

This new post-prosecution pilot program feels a lot like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. Unless and until the Patent Office does something about recalcitrant patent examiners this effort may wind up being much ado about nothing… If you look at Art Unit 3622, which handles applications dealing with incentive programs and coupons, and compare it with Art Unit 3688 and Art Unit 3682, both of which also handle patent applications relating to incentive programs and coupons, you see the same alarming trend. These three Art Units that handle the same type of patent application yet have allowance rates of 9.5%, 29.2% and 63.2%. Something seems seriously wrong and is screaming for investigation.

These Are the 20 Hardest and Easiest Art Units

Art Unit 3689 has the lowest allowance rate at 7.7%. Art Unit 3659 has the highest at 98.3%. Oddly enough, these two art units are from the same technology center. It’s worth noting, however, that the 3600s deal with a variety of inventions, including transportation, e-commerce, and national security. Of the 20 art units with the lowest allowance rates, eight are in the 3600’s. This is not surprising. After all, the 3600’s host many business-method art units.

Allowance Rates for Art Units Examining Business Methods

If I were a patent examiner that hadn’t issued patents for years I wouldn’t want anyone to know that either. Similarly, if I were a Supervisory Patent Examiner (SPE) in an Art Unit that routinely only issued patents after a long drawn out appeal process that resulted in the Board overturning the rejections I wouldn’t want the public to know about that either. Sadly, this type of gaming exists at the Patent Office. There are examiners who only rarely issue patents and Art Units that openly tell patent attorneys that they don’t issue patents unless ordered to do so by the Board. Knowing that this happens, which is supported by hard data, makes it impossible to tolerate the anti-patent zealots who routinely opine about just how easy it is to get a software or business method patent issued. Really? You have to be kidding!

Is there a Systematic Denial of Due Process at the USPTO?

After my presentation, as you might expect, I was approached by a number of patent attorneys. Story after story it was the same thing I have heard from so many others — depressing tales of not being able to get a patent. One particularly egregious thing I heard was from a patent attorney who told me about a conversation he recently had with a SPE from one of the business method art units. I don’t know which Art Unit, and frankly I didn’t ask, although it is probably easy enough to narrow down the Art Unit. This patent attorney told me that the SPE said: “we just don’t issue patents unless the Board orders us to.” If that is in fact what was said and is in fact what is happening then there is a systematic denial of due process at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and that is wholly unacceptable.

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