Saturday, December 31, 2005

Weekly Patent Counts for Dec. 18-31

The USPTO issued 2,512 patents and published 5,059 applications the week of December 18 and issued 3,049 patents and published 5,796 applications the week of December 25, the final week of 2005.* The sharp drop in the number of issued patents that began on October 1 continued throughout the fall; only 33,637 patents were issued in the fourth quarter, a 19 percent drop from the third quarter. The number of published applications was relatively stable; the total for the fourth quarter was 72,651, a .5 percent increase over the previous quarter.

*Based on preliminary data from the USPTO web site.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

USPTO Union President Retires

Stephen Barr's recent column in the Washington Post (Dec. 21) noted the retirement of Ronald J. Stern, president of the Patent Office Professional Association (POPA), the union representing patent examiners and other USPTO professional staff, including librarians. Stern worked as a patent examiner for 41 years and served as POPA president for the past 23 years.

What does this have to do with patent information? Good question. Well, under Stern's leadership, POPA exercised significant influence on the development of patent information systems. For example, in 2001 POPA and the USPTO brokered a deal that gave patent examiners a significant salary increase (10-15%) in exchange for giving up paper search files, a goal of USPTO management since the 1980s. This allowed the USPTO to more forward with its implementation of the Image File Wrapper (IFW) system. Today, the web-based IFW contains scanned images of documents in hundreds of thousands of patent applications filed from June 30, 2003 to the present. (Utility and plant applications are eligible, with some exceptions, for publication 18-months after the earliest filing date.) In addition, public users can use IFW to access provisional applications and reexamination proceedings.

The deal with POPA also allowed the USPTO to move forward with its plans to convert its Public Search Facility (PSF) into an electronic research center. The USPTO removed more than 26 miles of linear shelf-space of paper patent documents before relocating the PSF from Crystal City to its new campus in Alexandria.

Friday, December 16, 2005

USPTO Website Satisfaction Trails E-Gov Rankings

The December quarterly report of the E-Government American Customer Satisfaction Index (E-Gov ACSI), an independent survey that measures customer satisfaction with Federal government websites, shows that overall customer satisfaction with government websites has risen from 72.1 a year ago to 73.9 today, a 2.5% increase. About 50 Federal government websites participate in the survey, which was established in 2003.

The USPTO website scored 67, a 1 point increase over a year ago and one of the lowest scores in the category "Portals/Department Main Sites." The USPTO has participated in the survey since December 2003, and its score has fluctuated between 66-68. The National Library of Medicine's
MedlinePlus health information website scored 85, one of the highest scores among Federal government websites.

USPTO Website E-Gov ACSI Scores

2004 2005
Q1 66 66
Q2 66 68
Q3 66 66
Q4 66 67

Experts attribute the overall rise to improvements in governmentweb site navigation and search functions. The lack of improvement in the USPTO's score is puzzling, given the rationale (and cost) of the survey. In comparison, the
General Services Administration website's score improved 12 points over a year ago following a major overhaul and redesign in 2005.


American Customer Satisfaction Index

Citizens Warm to Fed Web Sites
, Dec. 15, 2005
Federal Computer Week

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Weekly Patent/PGPub Counts

U.S. Patents and Published Applications
Week of December 12, 2005

Patents Issued = 2,873*
Published Applications = 4,914*

 Patents  PGPubs  Total
Q1 40,563 71,889 112,452
Q2 41,926 72,776 114,702
Q3 41,693 72,298 113,991
Q4 28,076 61,796 89,872 (to Dec. 15)
Year 152,258 278,759 431,017

There has been a large drop in the number of issued patents since October 1. From January to September, the weekly average of issued patents was 3,184. From October 1 to December 15, the weekly average is 2,552, a drop of about 20 percent. Published applications, on the other hand, have increased slightly over the course of the year. The weekly average of PGPubs from January to September was 5,563. From October 1 to December 15 it was 5,618.

Is the drop in the number of issued patents connected to the USPTO's changing workforce? Perhaps. The USPTO has hired 970 patent examiners this year. Undoubtably, the challenge of integrating and training such a large group (almost 25% of the total examing corps) must be pulling resources away from other activities.

*Based on preliminary data from the USPTO web site.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

USPTO Expanding Training Facilities at Expense of Public Search Facilities

Less than 18 months after opening, the new USPTO Public Search Facility (PSF) and Scientific and Technical Information Center (STIC) are being reconfigured in order to accomodate two new USPTO training initiatives scheduled to start in early 2006.

According to the transcript of the
November 16 public user's meeting held by the Office of Public Records and Office of Public Information Services, the second floor of the PSF, which opened in September 2004, will be transformed into training space for the new IP Global Academy (IPGA), an IP law program for foreign judges, law enforcement officials, and government officials. The number of public research workstations will be reduced from 308 to 237, more than enough to accomodate peak usage according to officials at the meeting. In addition, bound volumes of patents in numeric order will be moved to a storage space in Suitland, Maryland.

STIC will lose space to SEED, the School for Examiner Education and Development, a new patent examiner training program described by USPTO Director Jon W. Dudas as "collegial and collaborative." Training is a critical priority due to the rapid expansion of the USPTO's patent examiner workforce and growing application backlog. The USPTO hired approximately 970 examiners this year and plans on hiring 1,000 more per fiscal year to 2011, according to Dudas' Sept. 8 statement to the
House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property. There are currently approximately 4,200 patent examiners. More than 400,000 new applications were filed in fiscal year 2005.

Monday, December 12, 2005

espacenet: 65K users/ 11 million page downloads per week

The European Patent Office announced that in the first half of 2005 the number of unique users accessing esp@cenet per week reached 65,000; more than 11 million PDF page downloads per week was also recorded during the same time period.

Recent improvements to espacenet include the addition of a new classification tag for nanotechnology, Y01N, and changing the Number Search to allow users to enter numbers without using a country code. For example, entering the number "6000000" will retrieve US6000000 and AU6000000.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

UM Researchers Tackle Patent Information

A team of researchers at the University of Michigan's School of Information are working with IBM scientists to develop new tools for searching and analyzing patent data. The NSF-funded project will use natural language search technology developed at the IBM Almaden Research Center, where the Free Patent Server was launched in 1997. IBM renamed the service the Intellectual Property Network (IPN) and then Delphion IPN, before selling it to Thomson.

While the press release describes the project as benefitting "individuals and businesses of all sizes," the project description emphasizes the development of new tools to help businesses identify "patent thickets... dense webs of overlapping patent rights that an organization must hack its way through in order to commercialize new technology." Certainly, this will be of most interest to companies in patent-intensive industries such as biotech, pharma/chemical and IT. It's unclear what impact it will have on independent inventors and small and medium-sized entreprises.

UMich SI Press Release
Project Description

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Espacenet Full Document Downloads

Full document downloading and printing is now available in espacenet. However, users must first type in a 5-8 digit alphanumeric code in order to begin the download. These alphanumeric codes are intended to thwart spiders and other software that download documents in bulk.

Mike White
Kingston, Ontario

USPTO Announces Patent Search Template Program

The USPTO has published an executive summary of a new project that aims to create approximately 1,300 "search templates" for each of the ~600 classified areas of science and technology found in the Manual of Classification.

According to the notice published in the 22 November Official Gazette, search templates will define the search field and resource areas of general subject matter, classes/subclasses, patent documents (both US and foreign) and non-patent literature that an examiner should consider each time a patent application is examined in the given classification.

Executive Summary - Search Template Project
Search Template Project
Mike White
Kingston, Ontario