Thursday, November 30, 2006

WIPO PCT Glossary and History of PCT Regulations

The WIPO has released two new reference works for PCT users:

The PCT Glossary contains definitions for dozens of terms commonly used in PCT rules and documentation. Terms are linked to appropriate PCT articles, rules, administrative instructions and forms.

The History of PCT Regulations is a 300 page in-depth history of PCT rules from June 19, 1970-October 12, 2006. The first edition was published in 1995.

Monday, November 27, 2006

USPTO Receives 443,652 Patent Applications in 2006

Here are some interesting facts from the FY 2006 USPTO annual report:

# of new applications: 443,652 (up from 409,532 in FY05)
# of pending applications: 1,077,042 (up from 885,002 in FY05)
# of provisional applications: 121,307 (up from 111,753 in FY05)
# of issued patents: 183,187 (up from 165,483 in FY05)
Average pendency: 31.1 months (up from 29.1 in FY05)

Although the USPTO is hiring patent examiners like crazy (1,218 in 2006) , it can't possibly train them fast enough to keep up with new filings *and* maintain quality *and* shorten review times. The number of published applications is going to continue to surpass issued patents 1.5-2.0 to 1. There will probably be more than 295,000 published applications in calendar year 2006 and perhaps 325,000 in 2007.

The bottom line: more outsourcing and fast-track examination programs.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Patent Information News 3/2006

The October 2006 issue of Patent Information News is now available.

This issue contains articles on:

  • Worldwide database moves to XML
  • EPO patent information conference, Nov. 6-8
  • esp@cenet user statistics
  • Open Patent Services: new features
  • Legal status from New Zealand
  • Data from Iceland
  • Patent mapping--a aid to corporate decision-making?

Monday, October 16, 2006

WIPO Student Workbook to Inventions and Patents - Now in French and Spanish

The educational workbook Inventions and Patents is now available in English, Spanish and French. The workbook is geared toward students 8-13 years old. The workbook is the first in the WIPO student learning series, Learn from the Past, Create the Future.

WIPO Report on Worldwide Patent Activity

The World Intellectual Property Organisation has published its annual report on Statistics of Worldwide Patent Activity. (Data current to 2004.)

According to the report, the number of patent applications file in 2004 rose to 1,559,000. More than 600,000 patents were granted worldwide in 2004. Other sections of the report cover filings by residents and non-residents, indicators of patent activity (filings per million population, per GDP, etc.), issued patents and patents in force.

Inventor Cuts Against the Grain

Independent inventors often underestimate the hurdles they must overcome in order to get their invention to market. Most don't even consider the government regulations and industry standards that could derail their attempts.

Take the case of Stephen Gass reported in the Oct. 10 Washington Post. Mr. Gass invented a device that he claims prevents power saws from inflicting severe injuries by stopping a rotating blade in fractions of a second. Sounds like a no brainer, right? But the power tool industry balked at licensing his invention. It even failed to win the endorsement of independent Underwriters Labs. Most inventors might give up in the face of such resistance, but Mr. Gass is no ordinary inventor... he's also a patent attorney.

great case study to share with both experienced and first-time inventors.

Monday, October 02, 2006

U.S. Patent Counts, Jan. 1-Sept. 30, 2006

The USPTO issued a record-breaking 54,749 patents from April-June and an impressive 50,253 patents in the Q3 from July-September, the first and second highest totals since early 2002. The increase is surprising given the sharp drop in patents in late 2005--only 33,637 patents were issued in Q4--and the agency's ongoing efforts to hire and train hundreds of new examiners, a process that is bound to negatively impact productivity. The USPTO hired 940 new examiners last year and will hire 1,000 more per year through 2012. If the pace continues in Q4, the USPTO could be on track to issue more than 200,000 patents in 2006, a 26 percent increase over 2005. Since 2001, the number of patents issued per year has declined in three out of four years. More than 400,000 new applications were filed in fiscal year 2005.

Table 1. Issued Patents, 2001-2006

2001 184,172 -
2002 177,485 -3.63%
2003 187,147 5.44%
2004 181,443 -3.05%
2005 157,819 -13.02%
YTD 149,701

Published applications in 3Q totaled 74,902, breaking the previous record of 74,255 set in Q4 of 2004. However, the rate of growth has slowed considerably this year; it is likely that the number of published applications will fall between 290,000 and 293,000 in 2006, an increase of 0.4-1.4% over 2005.

Table 2. Published Applications, 2001-2006

2001 56,404 -
2002 199,006 252.82%
2003 237,089 19.14%
2004 268,399 13.21%
2005 289,614 7.90%
YTD 218,642

Monday, September 25, 2006

End of the USPTO's Document Disclosure Program?

Earlier this year the USPTO requested comments from the public on the proposed elimination of the Document Disclosure Program (DDP). The USPTO established the DDP in 1969 as a simple, low-cost way for inventors to document the date of conception of an invention as an alternative to the discredited practice of using a self-addressed envelope. (U.S. courts have never recognized a postmark as sufficient evidence of conception.)

This is the USPTO's second attempt to end the DDP. The previous attempt in 1998, although it received a number of favorable responses, was abandoned due to the lack of input from the independent inventor community. Opinions vary on the merits of the DDP. Some claim that it is open to abuse by unscrupulous Invention Promotion Companies (IPCs) and misuse by novice inventors. Others argue that is a safe and affordable way for first-time inventors to get their "feet wet" in the world of patents.

The most recent proposal, which was published in April in the Federal Register and in May in the Official Gazette of the USPTO, generated about two dozen comments from individuals and organizations.
The comments were generally split 50/50 in favor of eliminating the DDP; most were anecdotal and many acknowledged the lack of hard evidence to justify either course of action. (The lack of responses raises another question: where are all the independent inventors anyway? Could it be that young inventors aren't interested in the DDP? See the Sept. 9, 1999 issue of the New York Times for an article titled "Internet Connects Inventors to Information (and One Another).")

One of the most interesting responses was submitted by the United Inventors Association (UIA), an educational not-for-profit organization based in Rochester, New York whose mission is "to provide leadership, support and services to inventor support groups." The UIA letter, written by president Don Kelly, suggested that the USPTO had already decided to end the DDP and offered a counter-proposal: the "UIA is fully prepared to take on the management of the DDP." Will the USPTO accept the UIA's proposal and allow a private organization to manage the DDP, a program whose real value may be as a public relations tool?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Canadian Libraries Sparked an Inventor's Home Run

OCLC Canada has a new media campaign that links economic growth to libraries. The campaign features testimonials from individuals who have been helped by a librarian. One patent-related story comes from Sam Holman, owner of the Ottawa-based Original Maple Bat Company. According to the story, Mr. Holman "researched 225 related patents at multiple libraries in Ottawa, and realized that maple bats would be stronger and more durable than traditional ash."

Mr. Holman's patents include: CA2344077, US6334823, US6050910; he has several more pending applications in Japan and Austrialia. Aspiring inventors may search Canadian patents and published applications from 1869 to the present at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office's patent database and the European Patent Office's esp@cenet database.

Patent Bending Week 5

Tom Stewart and Russel Zeid, hosts of Patent Bending on Discovery Channel Canada, and Rick Minke, their master building/industrial designer, take a look at 19th century personal safety technology in this week's episode. The subject is a U.S. patent from 1879 called "Improvement in Fire Escapes" invented by Benjamin B. Oppenheimer. (US 221,855) The invention combines a head-mounted parachute and thick rubber soled shoes that is supposed to allow a human to safely escape a burning building. (This patent frequently appears on lists of wacky patents.)

With the aid of a crash test dummy named "Sandy", the team quickly discovers that the original design is more hazardous than helpful. (Damn those laws of physics!) Quickly they regroup and scale-down the device to accomodate pets such as cats and gerbils. Their improved design works, much to the relief of pet owners everywhere. (No animals were harmed in the making of this episode.)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Patent Bending and the Greatest Canadian Inventor

Last month I reported that Discovery Channel Canada was launching a new series called Patent Bending: Mad Ideas - Modern Science. The hosts of the show, inventor Tom Stewart and science guy Russell Zeid, find wacky patents and attempt to build working models based on the designs.

The first three episodes were mixed. The floating campsite was more camp than science. I kept hoping in vain that a bear would hijack the sorry rig. the bicycle lawnmower and 12-gauge golf club were very entertaining.

Unfortunately, there is virtually no discussion of the actual patents during the show. No one explains what a patent is, how the guys found the featured patents or shows the patent drawing. The web site also provides scant information on the original patents. For the bicycle lawnmower all it reveals is that the inspirational patent issued in 1984. (U.S. 4,455,816)

Perhaps we can hope for more from the CBC's "Greatest Canadian Invention" competition. The CBC is inviting viewers to vote for the best Canadian invention of all time. The fifty innovations include insulin, the Blackberry and lacrosse. The winner will be announced during a special show hosted by Bob McDonald on January 3, 2007.

USPTO Bans Wikipedia

According to the Sept. 4 issue of Business Week, the USPTO has recently banned Wikipedia as an acceptable source of information for determining the patentability of inventions. Patent examiners and applicants have been citing Wikipedia articles in patents since at least November 2003... and not very many of them at that. A quick search of the USPTO's patent database reveals that from January 2004 to the present only 74 patents cite Wikipedia articles. Compare that to 33,802 references to IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) publications. Other science and engineering publishers heavily favored by patent examiners and applicants include:

Association of Computing Machinery = 6,010
Elsevier = 4,493
Springer Verlag = 2,319
McGraw-Hill = 2,728
Chemical Abstracts Service = 2,274
Oxford Univ Press = 781
Society of Automotive Engineers = 968
American Society of Mechanical Engineers = 850
Society of Petroleum Engineers =706
Cambridge Univ Press = 639
Wiley Interscience = 545
MIT Press = 403
ASTM = 498
American Institute of Chemical Engineers = 207

Wikipedia did beat its arch rival Encyclopedia Britannica, which was cited in only 47 patents in the same time period.

Patent examiners and patent attorneys are highly trained (many have Masters or PhDs) and experienced professionals. The above stats show that most do know the difference between an authoritative source and a marginal or unreliable one. It may be that Wikipedia is the most appropriate source for some types of information. It's another form of “gray” literature that is well-suited to emerging or interdisciplinary fields that don’t have established vocabularies or literature. Besides, critics of the USPTO have long complained that patent examiners allow too many patents, especially in the fields of computer technology and business methods, that should have been refused on the basis of prior art found outside the realm of traditional publishing, such as open source software archives.

The USPTO’s own rules state that “[a]n electronic publication, including an on-line database or Internet publication,” may be valid reference if it is accessible to the public. Wikipedia certainly fits both criteria. What about CNET, Gizmodo, Slashdot and other popular tech sites where people discuss gadgets, share hacks and speculate on the future of technology?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Discovery Channel Canada Investigates Odd Patents

Have you ever looked at a wacky patent and wondered if it really could work?

Discovery Channel Canada aims to find out in a new series premiering in August called "Patent Bending: Mad Ideas and Modern Science." The 11-episode series looks at patents from the past 100 years to find and build the "greatest, strangest or most fantastically odd ideas that never got off the page."

The inventions include:

Bicycle Lawnmower - Tues, Aug. 22 at 8:30 p.m.
Floating Tent - Tues., Aug. 29 at 8:30 p.m.
12-Gauge Golf Club - Tues., Sept. 5 at 8:30 p.m.
Helmet Bar - Tues., Sept. 12 at 8:30 p.m.
Chute ‘N Shoes - Tues., Sept. 19 at 8:30 p.m.
Human Carwash - Tues., Sept. 26 at 8:30 p.m.
The Mancatcher - Tues., Oct. 3 at 8:30 p.m.
Motorized Picnic Table - Tues., Oct. 10 at 8:30 p.m.
The Baby Show - Tues., Oct. 17 at 8:30 p.m.
The Better Mousetrap - Tues., Oct. 24 at 8:30 p.m.
Uphill Skis - Tues., Oct. 31 at 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Pitfalls of Ignoring Patent Literature

I'm always on the lookout for examples I can share with researchers, especially postdocs and grad students,
that illustrate the pitfalls of ignoring patent literature.

Here's a recent report about two polymer researchers at the Univ. of Mass. Amherst who took their
colleagues to task for ignoring older scientific research, especially patent
literature, in an article published
in Langmuir. Their study used a water-repellent (hydrophobic)
silicone patented in 1945 to prove that
hydrophobicity was well-known in the 1940s but
apparently forgotten by today's researchers.
Here's the citation:

Lichao, G. and McCarthy T. "Artificial lotus leaf" prepared using a 1945

patent and a commercial textile." Langmuir, 2006, 22, 5998-6000

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Patent Lens Adds RSS Feeds

Patent Lens, a free international patent database maintained by CAMBIA, a non-profit research institute located in Caberra, Australia, now has RSS capability. Once saved in an RSS news reader such as Bloglines, searches conducted in Patent Lens will be periodically checked for new patents and will alert you of new "hits".

Patent Lens contains 4.3 million US patent documents, 268,000 EP patents, 538,000 PCT applications and 10,000 Australian patents.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

International Patent Information Conference and Exposition Announced

The dates for the 4th annual IPI-ConfEx have been announced. The meeting will take place March 4-8, 2007 in Sorrento, Italy. IPI-ConfEx is organized by a board of counselers representing various patent information professional associations worldwide. The conference is an opportunity for professionals in the field of patent information to meet and discuss patent searching, patent information management and the latest developments in patent information products.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

CIPO News: IPC Implementation, New Payment History on CD-ROM

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office recently announced the availability of patent file payment histories on CD-ROM. Copies of the CD, which contains approximately 4 million payment history records from 445,000 patent documents through Dec. 31, 2005, may be obtained from the CIPO's Client Service Centre.

CIPO also announced the successful implementation of IPC-2006. CIPO began loading IPC symbols of Canadian patent documents from the European Patent Office's Master Classification Database (MCD) on Jan. 7, 2006.

CIPO News Updates, July 10, 2006.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Invention Week @ Discovery Channel Canada

Discovery Channel Canada's Daily Planet, a news program about science and technology, recently celebrated "Invention Week."

Featured inventions included colored bubbles, aka "Zubbles", (US2006/0004110A1) and other cool ideas from the U.S. and Canada. Aspiring inventors will find a few useful tips in the brief "Inventor's Guide: From Blueprint to Patent."

EPO Patent Information Conference, Nov. 6-7 2006

The program for the 2006 EPO Patent Information Conference, scheduled for Nov. 6-7 in Cyprus, is now online. The conference will feature technical sessions, specialized training course and an exhibition of patent information products.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Patent Searching, Old School

Photo: Patent searching circa 1960. Searchers (junior patent attorneys most likely) flip through stacks of paper patents in metal troughs located in the Patent Search Room.

The IP Mall, an online resource center for intellectual property information provided by the Pierce Law Center in Concord, NH, has digitized a fascinating collection of Patent Office Research and Development Reports from the 1950s and 1960s. The reports describe the Patent Office's early attempts at "mechanizing" or automating patent searching using coding schemes and early "punched card" computers.

Photo source: How to Obtain Information from United States Patents, Washington, DC: U.S. Patent Office, 1964.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

New USPC Classification Order: Class 439 - Electrical Connectors

The USPTO has published Classification Order 1,855, dated May 2, 2006. The order affects subclasses in Class 439, Electrical Connectors; it abolishes subclasses 620-622 and establishes 620.01-620.34.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

PTO Document Disclosure Program

The latest issue of ipFrontline has an interesting article called "The PTO's Document Disclosure Program: Boon or Boondoggle," by former patent examiner Thomas G. Field.

The USPTO is currently seeking public comment on a proposal to eliminate the program. See the Federal Register April 6, 2006, vol. 71, p. 17399. This is the third time since 1998 that the agency has proposed eliminating the 27-year old program.

USPTO's Disclosure Document Program brochure.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

WIPO Patent Search Results Available by RSS

According to a recent WIPO press release, search results in PatentScope, WIPO's database of PCT international patent applications, can now be retrieved using RSS, aka "Really Simple Syndication".

PatentScope contains approximately 1.1 million published PCT applications from 1978 to the present and is updated every Thursday when new applications are published.

PatentScope RSS searches will automatically retrieve the latest published applications and feed them into your RSS reader, web page or database. This service will make it much easier to monitor international patent applications without the hassle of conducting repetitive searches every week.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Canadian Patents, 1869-1894

Made in Canada: Patents of Invention and the Story of Canadian Innovation

The Library and Archives of Canada and Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) have launched a new online exhibition and database of patents granted to Canadian citizens and residents from 1869-1894. Some patents are jointly held by Canadians and U.S. residents. Foreign inventors not residing in Canada were permitted to apply for patents in the early 1870s.

The database contains ~14,000 patents that are indexed by patent number, patent holder name, filing year, city, province/state and title keyword. Scanned images of full-text documents are also included. The Canadian Patent Office issued approximately 44,000 patents during the 25 years covered by the database. Patents from 1895-1919 will be added in the future.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

MIT-Lemelson Prizes Announced

The MIT-Lemelson Program has awarded its annual $500K prize to James L. Fergason, an early innovator in the field of liquid crystal displays, and a $100K lifetime achievement award to Dr. Sidney Pestka for his "seminal work on interferons."

Mr. Fergason has more than 100 U.S. patents. Dr. Pestka's most recent patents include:

6,800,747 Nucleic acids encoding phosphorylated fusion proteins
6,747,131 Phosphorylated fusion proteins
6,610,830 Microbial production of mature human leukocyte interferons
6,514,753 Expression vectors for producing modified proteins
6,482,613 Microbial production of mature human leukocyte interferons
6,300,474 Modified interferons
6,299,870 Mutant human interferons
6,287,853 Accessory factory function for interferon gamma and its receptor
6,225,455 Constructs for producing phosphorylated fusion proteins
6,150,503 Phosphorylated fusion proteins
6,001,589 Method of identifying proteins modified by disease states related thereto

Liquid Crystal Display Pioneer Honored
Washington Post, May 3, 2006

MIT-Lemelson Press Release

Monday, May 01, 2006

U.S. Patent Counts, Jan. 1-Apr. 30, 2006

U.S. patent grants in March and April hovered around 4,000 patents per week except for a slight dip the week of March 12. A record-breaking (at least in recent years) 4,365 patents issued on April 25, surpassing published applications by 13. This was the first week in many, many months when the number of issued patents exceeded the number of published applications.

New USPC Class Order: Class 174

The USPTO has published Classification Order 1,852, dated April 4, 2006. The order affects subclasses in Class 174 - Electricity: Conductors and Insulators.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

New Tips for Searching Japanese, Chinese Patent Databases

The EPO has posted new "tips and tricks" for searching Japanese and Chinese patent databases on its FAQ - Far East web site. The site contains information and answers to questions about industrial property information in Japan, China and Korea.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

WIPO Magazine (April 2006)

WIPO Magazine has a new look. The April 2006 edition is now available on the WIPO website at: Articles include:

* The Return of the Lion - the battle over rights to the song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" between Disney and the children of the original Zulu composer.
* Avian flu drugs and patents
* Using photographs of copyrighted works (IP for business)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Academic IP News

The New York Times reported on April 10 on a new study that found that university scientists who received grants from the National Cancer Institute received a large number of patents and started companies in "surprisingly high numbers."

The study was conducted by economists at Indiana University and the Max Planck Institute of Economics in Germany with the support of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The report is available at

In related news, Research Money magazine reported that revenue from intellectual property created by Canadian universities and hospitals had declined 7.7 percent in 2004. However, the number of invention disclosures increased 19 percent to 1,353, while patented inventions increased 23 percent to 647. These are preliminary statistics compiled by StatsCan from a survey that went to 88 universities and 47 hospitals. The final tally will be published in a working paper later this year.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Univ. of California Receives Most Patents in 2005

Researchers at the University of California received 390 patents in 2005, according to the annual list published Thursday by the USPTO. This is the 12th consecutive year that UC has ranked number 1 among U.S. universities receiving patents. UC has received more than 5,500 U.S. patents since Jan. 1, 1976 and is the designated assignee on more than 1,400 pending applications published since March 2001.

For more information about university patenting and technology transfer, see the Association of Univeristy Technology Managers (AUTM) web site. AUTM regularly publishes reports and surveys on academic patenting and licensing.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Satisfaction with Govt Web Sites Dips

According to the latest report of the American Customer Satisfaction Index e-gov survey, "Customer satisfaction with federal Web sites dipped slightly last quarter for the first time in a year, although users are generally more satisfied with the information the government has online." (Reported in Government Computer News, March 21, 2006.)

Apparently, the USPTO is no longer participating in the ACSI e-gov survey, as it doesn't appear among the Q1 scores. It was first included two years ago in the March 2004 ACSI report. ACSI scores are archived at

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Academic Innovation Success Stories

Last year the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) launched the Better World Project to promote public understanding of how academic research and technology transfer benefits society and improves our way of life. AUTM has now released two publications highlighting academic innovations and a database of more than 100 products.

The Better World Report
Case studies on 25 innovations from academic research and technology transfer.

Reports from the Field
Profiles of 100 technology transfer success stories from Canada and the U.S. Innovations are grouped into 19 categories including biotechnology, environment, medical and nanotechnolgy. Also includes indexes by geographic location and institution. Unfortunately, Although many of the innovations are patented, no patent numbers are given. In most cases, however, it is easy to retrieve related patents from online databases using the information provided in a profile. (A good source of teaching examples?)

BWP DatabaseInnovations are searchable by field of application, institution, location or keyword. Again, no patent numbers are not included. (Perhaps a future improvement?)

Both reports are available for purchase or may be downloaded for free. The database is also provided free of charge. Lastly, a supplemental report on academic innovations from UK institutions is available.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Patent Information News 1/2006

The latest issue of the EPO's Patent Information News (formerly EPIDOS News) is now available.

Articles include:

- Determining the value of a European patent
- IPC8 data in the EPO's databases
- IPC reform and XML
- IPC reform - the user's view
- OPS document delivery
- esp@cenet update

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Searching Chinese and Japanese Designs

The European Patent Office has published two new guides on how to search Chinese and Japanese designs using Locarno classifications. Look for them under "Tips and Tricks for Searching Databases" in the EPO Far East FAQ - Japan and FAQ - China.

Friday, March 17, 2006

British Library Launches New "Business and IP Centre"

The British Library has launched a new service for innovators, entrepreneurs and business owners called the "Business and IP Centre" or BIPC. BIPC is built around the impressive patent and market research collections of the BL and offers free workshops, seminars, speakers, case studies and an e-newsletter.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

New Archive Search Tool May Reveal Lost U.S. Patents

Librarians and historians know that researching early U.S. patents is often a frustrating exercise that ends in disappointment. Although the U.S. government registered approximately 10,000 patents from 1790 through 1836, almost all original U.S. patent documents and files from this period were lost in a devastating fire that swept through the Patent Office in the early morning hours of December 15, 1836. The Patent Office, using funds provided by Congress, attempted to rebuild its files by obtaining copies of patents from inventors. About 2,500 patents, the majority from the 1820s and 1830s, were recovered in this way. For the remainder, all that is known is the title, inventor name, and date. These patents are called "X" patents because of the unique serial number assigned to them many years later. Patent No. X1, the first U.S. patent, was granted to Samuel Hopkins on July 31, 1790. Copies of recovered X patents, many in handwritten script, are available in the USPTO web-based patent database.

Some experts believe that there are many more early U.S. patents waiting to be discovered in court archives, libraries, archives and attics. Indeed, over the years researchers and patent buffs have stumbled across several missing patents in archives and libraries. One of the largest caches was discovered in August 2004 when two New Hampshire patent attorneys located 14 lost patents in Dartmouth Library. A systematic search of courthouse archives and libraries would undoutably turn up more, but none has ever been undertaken (to my knowledge), probably because the cost would be prohibitive.

Fortunately, patent researchers now have access (until May 31) to a powerful new tool that may help them identify copies of lost pre-1836 U.S. patents located in archives, museums and libraries around the world. ArchiveGrid, an initiative of RLG, contains collection descriptions of nearly a million historical documents, personal papers and family histories from thousands of institutions. In effect, ArchiveGrid is a union catalogue of archival collections. RLG is seeking additional grants and sponsorships to keep the system free of charge.

A simple keyword search in ArchiveGrid discovered the following tantalizing patent documents, none of which appear in the USPTO database. (X patent number obtained from list of name and date patents, July 31, 1790 to July 2, 1836.)

Patent number: X3502
Merrow, Joseph M., 1848-1947.
Patent, gunpowder, 1822 April 19.
1 sheet ; 25 cm.
Notes and Summaries: Old Sturbridge VillageMStuO
Shelving control number: 1993.63 pc
Photocopy of "Letters patent" in making gunpowder, in names of Joseph M. Merrow and Robert McKee, Jr.See also Visual Resource Library for photo of Merrow Mill, and Manuscript Information File.McKee, Robert, Jr.RLG Union Catalog Record ID: MAOV93-A103

Patent Number: X5325
Mosher, Reuben.
Patent, 1829.
l item.
New York State Library
Manuscripts and Special Collections
New York State Library
Shelving location: Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12230.N
Shelving control number: 21208

Patent Number: X8725
Martin Rich patent, 1835. 1 item.
Patent issued to Martin Rich for an improvement in Iron Dogs for a Saw Mill called the Gauge Saw Mill Dog. Signed by Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, and dated March 27, 1835.Preferred Citation: Martin Rich Patent, #272m. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.Cornell University LibraryNICShelving control number: 272m.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

U.S. Patent Counts, Jan. 1-Mar. 9, 2006

U.S. patent issues remained strong but stable in the second half of February and into the first week in March, perhaps signaling an end to four months of lower than anticipated patent grants.

The number of published applications jumped to more than 6,200 on March 2. The combined total of issued patents and published applications for the week of February 26 was more than 10,000.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

2006 Patent Focus Report - Thomson KnowledgeLink

A little late but the Jan/Feb issue of Thomson's KnowledgeLink newsletter has an interesting article highlighting the most important patent developments in China, Europe, India, Japan and the US.


Friday, March 03, 2006

DOE Launches Megasearch Initiative

According to a report in Federal Computer Week, the Energy Department's Office of Science and Technology Information is launching a new "megaportal" initiative called Global Discovery that will allow users to retrieve scientific and technical information from four existing portals, ", a portal with millions of pages of pre-publication research findings, a search engine for science conference proceedings and a database of international research on energy – by entering one query on one Web site."

The USPTO patent database is one of many government sci-tech resources that can be searched via the portal. Users may search it in tandem with other resources or select just the USPTO database. However, the search engine is crude at best. While retrieves keywords in patent titles with the same accuracy as the USPTO search engine--the title search "(pill or capsule) and (coating or film)" retrieves 10 patents. An identical search in the USPTO database retrieves the same 10 patents--it doesn't find data in some fields, such as current classification, and has difficulty with inventor and assignee names. Search results are limited to 50 hits. searches only the USPTO patent database and not the published applications database, which contains ~1.2 million documents or roughly 15 percent of all US patent documents.

Monday, February 27, 2006

19th c. Patent Digests in Google Book Search

In December 2004, Google announced a partnership with four university libraries and the New York Public Library to scan and digitize millions of the books in their collections, many of them copyrighted. The goal of Google Book Search, as the project is called, is to make the full text of books owned by the world's leading libraries and publishing houses available on-line within a decade.

While publishers and copyright owners have been successful in curbing Google's efforts to scan works still protected by copyright, GBS is scanning older publications and materials not covered under copyright. This is a boon to researchers who want access to 19th and 20th century U.S. government documents, which are not copyrighted. For example, inventors, genealogists and historians can now access a few indexes and digest of patents published by the U.S. Patent Office in the mid-19th century. One example (bearing a Harvard Library bookplate) is:

A digest of patents issued by the United States including the years 1839, 1840, and 1841
to which is added the present laws relating to patents
Henry L. Ellsworth, Commissioner of Patents
Washington: William Greer, 1842

The digest list patents under the twelve classes of the U.S. patent classification system in alphabetical order by title. A separate section includes the text of patent laws up to August 1842.

As Google Book Search grows, more patent indexes and digests are sure to appear. In a short time it may be possible for anyone to browse by inventor name or subject the 19th century U.S. patent record. Of course, the USPTO web site already has a database of scanned images of U.S. patents back to 1790. However, patents prior to January 1976 can only be retrieved by patent number or current classification. Inventor name and title are not searchable. The presence of 19th century patent indexes in Google Book Search will make it easier for researchers to locate patents by inventor name, date and subject.

U.S. Patent Counts, Feb. 5-29

The number of issued patents continued to rise through the first three weeks in February, reaching a six-month high of 4,064 on February 21. A patent milestone was reached on February 14: the USPTO issued patent no. 7,000,000. The total number of patents issued in 2006 now stands at 25,032.

Published applications declined from 5,624 on February 2 to 4,862 on February 23. The total number of published applications in 2006 is 41,976, almost twice the number of patents.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

New USPTO Class Order: Classes 2, 57, 428

The USPTO has published Classification Order 1,854, dated February 7, 2006. The order affects subclasses in Class 2 - Apparel; Class 57 - Textiles: Spinning, Twisting, and Twining; and Class 428 - Stock Material or Misc. Articles.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

U.S. Patent 7,000,000

Early this morning the USPTO issued utility patent no. 7,000,000. (A total of 3,920 other patents were also issued.)

The patent, which is assigned to DuPont, is for a new type of polysaccharide fiber and the process for making it. According to the abstract, the new fibers have "cotton-like properties" and are useful in textile applications. The inventor is John P. O'Brien, the recipient of several other patents for artificial fibers and methods of making them.

Of course, milestone patents are significant for more than just their numbers. With the recent furor over low-cost Chinese textile products flooding the U.S. after the expiration of the 30-year old international agreement on textiles in January 2005, this patent may be symbolic of the pressing need to invest in U.S. technological innovation and development. Despite textile industry and union appeals to "buy American", American consumers are unlikely to pay top dollar for American-made underwear and golf shirts when they can buy similar goods at much lower prices on the world market. The U.S. economy needs technological innovation more than ever in order to compete in the global economy.

Critics of globalization often complain about the "race to the bottom", i.e. that workers in industrialized countries will be forced to accept increasing pay cuts that make them more competitive with workers in developing countries like India and China. The answer to low-cost textile goods manfactured in China, India and other developing countries is not reducing the pay of American textile workers, it's investing in technological innovation that produces new materials, products and markets. The future of the U.S. textile industry is not cheaper golf shirts produced in more efficient mills by lower paid workers, it's technological innovation, research and development that leads to patentable inventions like Dupont's
polysaccharide fibers.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

U.S. Patent 7,000,000 on Feb. 14?

If the USPTO issues 3,155 or more utility patents next Tuesday, Feb. 14, it is likely that they will include patent number 7,000,000. The UPSTO issued 3,040 utility patents on Feb. 7. The highest numbered utility patent is currently 6,996,845. Given the timing, one has to wonder what the subject of the milestone patent will be...

Perhaps a new formulation for fat-free chocolate? A method of identifying potential mates on-line? A recordable Valentine's Day card with a built-in video display and speakers?

Patent No. 6,000,000 was granted on December 7, 1999 to inventors Jeff Hawkins and Michael Albanese. Their invention was a system for synchronizing files on two computers, the core technology of the Palm Pilot PDA, the first commercially successful hand-held electronic organizer. Other million-milestone patents include:

5,000,000 (March 19, 1991)
Ethanol production by Escherichia coli strains co-expressing Zymomonas PDC and ADH genes

4,000,000 (Decembre 28, 1976)
Process for recycling asphalt-aggregate compositions

3,000,000 (September 12, 1961)
Automatic reading system (barcodes)

2,000,000 (April 30, 1935)
Vehicle wheel construction

1,000,000 (August 8, 1911)
Vehicle tire

Monday, February 06, 2006

Chinese Universities Increase Patent Filings

There have been many articles and opinion pieces in American business and engineering magazines in recent months warning of the threat of China overtaking the U.S. in technical education and innovation. A recent issue of ASEE Prism, the magazine of the American Society for Engineering Education, concludes that China is in the process of creating world-class engineering universities. One of the keynote speakers at ASEE's 2005 annual conference, Dwight Streit, VP of Foundation Technologies for Northrup-Grumman, warned that China is graduating some 325,000 new engineers per year compared to 70,000 in the U.S. A recent BusinessWeek article noted that Indian engineering firms are poised to capture more U.S. engineering and design work. It concludes that U.S. engineers need to be redeployed to higher-valued jobs.

Chinese universities are also making impressive progress in the realm of intellectual property. According to an article in the June issue of KnowledgeLink (Thomson Scientific), Chinese university patent activity is increasing at a faster rate than scholarly publications, a frequently cited measure of academic research output, because of intellectual property law reform and government policies encouraging domestic research and commercialziation. According to the 2004 annual report of China's State Intellectual Property Office, Chinese universities and research institutes accounted for 17 percent of the approximately 111,000 new patent applications filed in 2004. Tsinghua University accounted for 875 new patent applications alone, followed by Shanghai Jiaotong University with 829 and Zhejiang University with 762. In comparison, the University of California (all campuses) filed 424 new patent applications with the USPTO in 2004, followed by Cal Tech with 135, and MIT with 132, in 2004. The World Intellectual Property Organization reported recently that Chinese PCT filings increased by 43.7 percent in 2005.

USPTO Keeps Fees in President's 2007 Budget

President Bush's budget proposal for fiscal year 2007 recommends that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office keep all of the roughly $1.8 billion it collects in patent and trademark fees and supports additional increases for reducing application processing times and improving quality.

Inventors and intellectual property owners have long complained of Congress's habit of diverting USPTO fees to fund other federal programs. Funding for the USPTO, an agency of the Department of Commerce, is covered in the bill authorizing the budgets of the Departments of Commerce, State and Justice. President Bush has supported ending the practice of diversion in recent budget proposals.

The USTO will need access to all its funds in order to decrease its increasing backlog of patent applications and support e-government initiatives. Last year the USPTO hired some 970 patent examiners and received more than 400,000 new patent applications. The USPTO expects to hire approximately 1,000 more examiners per year throught fiscal year 2011, according to testimony before Congress by Jon Dudas, Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO. The number of pending patent applications could increase from approximately 600,000 today to 1,000,000 by 2010, according to Dudas.

The USPTO has a mixed record on implementing technological solutions to its workload problem. The USPTO's award-winning Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS), lauched in October, 1998 and its Trademark Electronic Search Search (TESS) have been very successful. More than 88 percent of new trademark applications are filed electronically, according to the USPTO's 2005 annual report. TESS includes all registered and pending trademark applications and expired trademarks since 1984. The USPTO's patent electronic filing system, EFS, despite significant investment, has not been successful. Less than 2 percent of new patent applications are filed electronically. Inventors and patent attorneys have complained of the system's difficult user interface, complexity and reliability. According to the annual report, a new, web-based version of EFS should be in full production mode by the end of 2006.

According to a report in Federal Computer Week, the USPTO plans to use much of the fiscal year budget authority to hire more patent and trademark examiners, and improve examiner traininng. The report also stated that the USPTO would budget $70.2 million to improve its patent automation system and an additional $18.2 million to enhance its trademark automation system. $10.1 million will be allocated for improvements to the USPTO's web-based information dissemination management system.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Japan, China, S. Korea Lead PCT Filings in 2005

The World Intellectual Property organization has reported a record 134,000 international patent application filings in 2005. China and the Republic of Korea were the countries with the largest increases in PCT filings, jumping to the 10th and 6th positions, respectively. Japan had the third largest growth in PCT filings. Together, the three Asian countries accounted for 24.1 precent of all international applications. In comparison, PCT filings from Canada numbered 2,315 and the United States 45,111.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

U.S. Patent Counts, Jan. 22-Feb. 2

The number of patents granted by the USPTO increased in the final week of January, jumping from about 2,500 on January 24 to 3,500 on January 31. This is one of only a few weeks since September 2005 that the USPTO has granted more than 3,000 patents in one week. Prior to October 1, 2005 the USPTO regularly granted 3,000-3,500 patents per week. The number of published applications increased slightly to 5,500.

Monday, January 23, 2006

U.S. Patent Counts, Jan. 1-Jan 21

In the first three weeks of 2006 the USPTO published 15,973 applications and issued 7,315 patents. This is a drop of about 2,000 patents from the same period a year ago. The number of published applications in the first three weeks of 2005 was 15,830. Based on preliminary data from the USPTO web site.

Vatican to Publishers: Papal Writings Owed Royalties

According to a recent article in the London Times, the Vatican has implemented a new, strict copyright policy on the writings of Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessors going back fifty years. This includes the writings of John Paul II, John Paul I, Paul VI and John XXIII. Official copyrights on all papal documents will be assigned to the Vatican publishing house, the Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Publishers who wish to republish papal writings will be asked to pay a 3-5 percent copyright fee. Those who infringe papal copyrights face a 15 percent fee.

Vatican Cashes In by Putting Price on the Pope's Copyright
, The Times, Jan. 23.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

USPTO Warns Inventors About ID Theft

According to an article in the Washington Times on Jan. 20, the USPTO is warning inventors not to put sensitive information such as Social Security and bank account numbers on patent applications and related documents, lest it be used to commit identity fraud. Each week thousands of patent application files become available to the public on the USPTO web site. (Applications are published 18 months after the earliest filing date or when a patent issues.) The USPTO implemented a new policy on Oct. 1, 2005 by which it reserved the right to remove such information if inventors include it. An agency spokesman said that there were no known cases of inventor identity theft.

This is not the first time that the dissemination of patent information has been linked to potential inventor fraud. It's interesting to note that in March 1874, just a few years after the Patent Office began publishing a weekly gazette containing abstracts (and inventor information) of newly issued patents, the Scientific American reported that inventors were receiving unsolicited letters from companies offering large sums to purchase their inventions provided they send a small sum ($5) to pay for an evaluation of their patent rights. Of course, few inventors received replies after sending in their money.
Copies of the gazette were distributed to public libraries and private subscribers nationwide. Did this make it easier for unscrupulous patent agents and swindlers to contact potential victims?

Inventors Warned of ID Theft, Washington Times, Jan. 20, 2006

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

New USPTO Class Order: Design Classes D9, D23, D32

The USPTO has released Classification Order 1853, covering classification changes to design classes:

D9 - Packages and containers for goods
D23 - Environmental heating and cooling; fluid handling and sanitary equipment
D32 - Washing, clearning, or drying machine

The classification order includes new schedules, established and abolished subclasses, definition changes and changes to the USPC--Locarno Classification Concordance. The Lorcano Classification is the international classification system for industrial designs. It is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization and used by 43 countries.

Friday, January 13, 2006

New Nanotechnology Classifications

The EPO has announced a new ECLA section, Y01N, for nanotechnology-related patents. The new section has not yet been added to the esp@cenet classification search, but the schedule is available on the espacenet online forum and Y01N codes are searchable in esp@cenet.

Last year the USPTO also published a cross-reference art class for nanotechnology called Class 977.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

EPO 2005 Far East Meets West: Patent Information from Japan and the Far East

Presentations and other materials from the EPO's 2005 Far East Meets West: Patent Information from Japan and the Far East conference is now available on the EPO's web site.

Topics include searching Japanese, Chinese and Korean patent documents, implementation of IPC8, patent information systems, patent law updates and legal status research.

Monday, January 09, 2006

EPO Implements IPC8

The EPO has published new guideliness for searching IPC codes under IPC8, which went into force on Jan. 1. IPC8 is divided into "Core" and "Advanced" levels. The Core level will be updated every three years; the Advanced level is a dynamic system that will be continuously updated every three months or less. There are also new rules governing the assignment of IPC8 codes to invention and non-invention information disclosed in an application.

The EPO has made it possible to search IPC8 codes in esp@cenet using the following options:
  • ci: selects IPC Core Invention
  • cn: selects IPC Core Non Invention
  • ai: selects IPC Advanced Invention
  • an: selects IPC Advanced Non Invention
  • c: selects IPC Core
  • a: selects IPC Advanced

RSS Feeds Make Patent Watching a Breeze

If you're a patent news hound like me, you`re probably in the habit of visiting 3-6 patent office web sites a week looking for the latest official press releases, notices and announcements. Of course, all of that clicking and typing gets old fast. Fortunately, some innovative patent information professionals and attorneys are using RSS technology to streamline the process of reading patent office news.

Two of my favourite patent RSS sites are IPNewsFlash and Rethink(IP). IPNewsflash provides feeds of official notices from the USPTO, JPO, EPO, WIPO, UK, German Patent Office and the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), the EU agency that administers the Community Trade Mark and Community Design programs. Rethink(IP), a service created by patent attorneys Stephen Nipper, J. Matthew Buchanan and Douglas Sorocco, provides feeds for USPTO notices and press releases, and recently filed patent lawsuits.

The USPTO has been publishing a weekly gazette of abstracts of newly issued patents since 1872. In 2002, the USPTO made a great leap backward to 1990 by moving the Official Gazette (OG) from print to CD-ROM format. (To be fair, the USPTO also publishes the most recent 52 weeks of the OG on its web site.) The new version was called eOG:P, a name which combined the worst of the recent Dot Com boom with the federal government`s love of mind-bending acronyms.

Fortunately, two patent information services, Paterra, Inc. and FreePatentsOnline, now provide RSS feeds of recently issued U.S. patents and published applications. The Paterra feeds display a list of the most recent titles with publication dates and the name of the principal inventor. FreePatentsOnline gives title and a link to the full text document stored in FPO`s online database. Both services are free.