Posts Tagged: "patent examiners"

USPTO and UKIPO Progress Report on Worksharing Initiative

The thing that struck me most from these survey results was the superiority of USPTO searches. I’m sure you have heard the same criticisms and joking that I have. Many, particularly Europeans, love to criticize and even make fun of the searches done by the USPTO. If anything these survey results suggest that the USPTO does a better search than is done in the UKIPO. After all, under UKIPO practice, examiners only cite extra documents if they are more relevant than those already found by the UK search. So when they rely on US references that means they must have been more relevant than what they found. So much for the alleged inferiority of USPTO searches.

Prior Borat? Non-traditional Prior Art Rejections!

Recently, I was working on a patent search requiring me to look in areas of patent art relating to male underclothing (a very popular area for patenting, as you may guess) when I came across this little number: US Patent Application 12/071,878, which is titled “Scrotal Support Garment.” This application serves as a great example of rejection through non-patent literature. When you apply for a patent, the examiner can use any information available to the public to reject your application – not just patents. In this case, the examiner had an easy time finding a picture of Borat in the swimwear and was gracious enough to include several pictures in the rejection.

USPTO and AUTM Announce Joint Patent Examiners Training Initiative

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) announced on Friday, March 15, 2012, the launch of the USPTO/AUTM Patent Examiners Training Initiative, a joint program designed to improve the strength and quality of U.S. patents through specialized training between patent examiners, innovators and scientists.

Patent Hoteling Program Succeeding as a Business Strategy

The telework program affords employees the ability to work from home from 1 to 5 days a week, and the largest of these telework programs — the Patent Hoteling Program (PHP) — had 2,600 patent examiners participating at the end of fiscal year 2011. With so many patent examiners working from home does the “brain drain” affect the learning curve of new patent examiners who have fewer people around to help and mentor. The Inspector General’s report does not address the issue of “brain drain,” but does quite clearly demonstrate that those examiners that work from home are more productive than examiners who report to work on campus at the USPTO.

Making it Easier to Get a Patent

Contrary to popular belief, things are getting much better in business methods. Applications filed in 1999 had prosecution times of over 10 years (lower green arrow). These and subsequent applications jammed up the system leading to excessive delays to first office actions. Applications filed in 2004, for example, had delays to first office action of 6 years (middle red arrow). Sometime around 2010, however, things started to improve. A lot more patents started issuing and the delays to first office action dropped to around 2 years (upper red arrow). That’s not to say that it’s easy to get a patent in business methods, but at least examiners and applicants are making much better progress in reaching agreement on allowable claims in a reasonable amount of time.

A Patent Bigfoot? The Mythical First Action Allowances DO Exist!

Top 50 Law Firms with the most first action allowances according to PatentCore data. But where are these first action allowances coming from? All over the Patent Office really. They occur with plants (1661), organic compounds (1621, 1625, 1626), batteries (1725), active solid state devices (2818), electrical generators or motors (2834), optical systems and elements (2873), optics measuring and testing (2877), vehicle fenders (3612), data processing (3661), aeronautics and astronautics (3662), internal combustion engines (3748), valves (3751, 3753) and elsewhere throughout the USPTO.

Compact Prosecution in the USPTO is Anything But Compact

hange does not come easily. At a minimum, the PTO must stop encouraging and rewarding examiners for actions that defeat the objectives of the office. As long as examiners are credited and rewarded for acting upon every application that they can force an applicant to file, examiners can be expected to seek the credit and reward, and the backlog will be with us. As long as examiner performance is based upon the conventional (N + D)/2, the incentives will foster counter-productive behavior in the examining corps and the Office will not make meaningful strides toward accomplishing its mission. Examiners will do what they are rewarded for doing – generating as many N’s and D’s as possible without regard to whether anything is really being accomplished.

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.

The Law of Recipes: Are Recipes Patentable?

In most cases the typical recipe for a “killer Margarita” or “the best barbeque sauce ever” will not be patentable, but the only way to know for sure is to understand how the Patent Office reaches its conclusions relating to what can and cannot be patented. It is possible to obtain a patent on a recipe or food item if there is a unique aspect to the recipe, there is something counter-intuitive or a problem (such as self live or freshness) is being addressed. The trick will be identifying a uniqueness that is not something one would typically think to try.

Examining the Appealed Patent Allowances from Art Unit 3689

The data clearly suggests that that inquiry should be made into what is going on in Art Unit 3689. If there is nothing odd after evaluation then I will be the first to report that and say that after further evaluation the patent examiners in Art Unit 3689 are doing a fantastic job. In the meantime, however, one way that we can get a more complete glimpse of what is going on in Art Unit 3689 is to take a look at the patents granted only after a decision from the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences. Currently, according to the data available in the PatentCore system, 13 of the 24 patents granted have been granted after a decision from the BPAI, and 3 others were granted only after the applicant filed an appeal brief. That rate seems extraordinarily high to me, as does the 76.5% reversal rate at the BPAI. A look at some of the appeals themselves is elucidating.

Business Methods by the Numbers: A Look Inside PTO Class 705

What these numbers tell you is if your application is in Art Unit 3622 or 3689 you are in for a long wait to obtain a patent. The numbers also show that if you carry the case all the way through appeal there is quite a high success rate for applicants; 66.7% when in Art Unit 3622 and 71.4% when in Art Unit 3689. It is hard to know for sure what is going on in Art Units 3622 and 3689, but one number jumps out at me as particularly alarming. In Art Unit 3689 nearly 4 out of 5 of the applications they allow require the applicant to hop on the appeal track.

Kappos 2.0: Part 2 of my Interview with David Kappos

The beginning of Part 2 of my interview picks up where we left off, but more generally broadens out to generically ask how Kappos approaches the daunting task of getting over 6000 patent examiners on the same page to provide uniformity when by the very nature of the decisions they make they are dealing with one-of-a-kind innovations. There is always going to be subjectivity in prosecution, but the Kappos Administration seems to have gone back the philosophy of old, which is that patents should be granted on patentable inventions and it is the job of patent examiners, with the help of applicants and attorneys, to work together to find patent allowable matter in applications. But getting the message from the 10th floor of the Madison Building to trickle down to 6000+ patent examiners is something that cannot be taken for granted.

At the Core: Patent Examiner and Art Unit Data Explained

Early in my career, I encountered a series of approximately 20 patent applications that were assigned to a small number of different art units. During the time it took to bring the cases to resolution, I kept detailed notes of my experiences prosecuting each case. It eventually occurred to me that the information I’d collected might be useful to other prosecutors working with the same examiners and/or art units. I wondered whether my colleagues, by reviewing my notes and gaining insight from my experiences, might be able to accomplish resolution more effectively and efficiently. However, the subjective and anecdotal nature of my notes limited their practicality. Recognizing that fact, I began to consider strategies for facilitating ways in which practitioners could more effectively share their prosecution experiences with one another.

Patent Strategy: Discovering Crucial Patent Examiner Data

What if you could have a crystal ball looking inside the United States Patent and Trademark Office to easily determine an array of statistical information related to a particular Art Unit or even a specific Patent Examiner? Can you imagine the types of strategic consultations you could engage in with clients? Clients hate being surprised with additional fees and unexplained and/or unexpected delays. What if you could with a few clicks of your mouse find out all kinds of information about a Patent Examiner and/or Art Unit? The amount of cases requiring an RCE, the average number of office actions, how often appeals are successful, how long it takes on average to get a patent, among much more information? Thanks to a new system created by patent attorneys Chris Holt and Joseph Kelly — the PatentCore™ system — you can obtain actionable and immediate intelligence on any patent examiner and on any Art Unit.

In re Lovin: The Examiner’s Answer is Too Late To Make a Proper Rejection of Dependent Claims

Lovin has received exceptional attention in the patent law blogosphere. In short, Lovin permits an examiner to wait until an examiner’s answer to explain how and why dependent claims are rejected. What’s worse, Lovin permits the examiner to require the applicant to provide a substantive reason for patentability before the examiner explains the rejection. The Federal Circuit is considering whether to hear In re Lovin en banc, and indeed they should rehear Lovin en banc. The Federal Circuit should defend the applicant’s right to receive a meaningful explanation of claim rejections before the applicant is required to rebut the rejections.

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