Monday, February 26, 2007

Maine State Tartan in Dispute

This story isn't patent related but it's interesting to me, since I'm from Maine..

Tartan centre of copyright lawsuit - L.L. Bean and copyright owner in fight over Maine State Tartan. The tartan was designed by a Canadian in 1964 and the copyright acquired by a private company in 1988.

Apparently, there are two Maine tartans... The Maine state legislature has proposed a Maine Dirigo Tartan that would be an alternative to the privately owned Maine State Tartan.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Canadian and U.S. Patent Maps

Several years ago I created a map of the U.S. showing the ratio of issued patents to population. I've recently updated it with 2006 statistics and created a second map for Canada. They're simple maps based on the most recent data from the USPTO and Census Bureau, Canadian Intellectual Property Office and Statistics Canada.

U.S. Patent Map (2006)

The average for the U.S. is 32 patents per 100,000 population. The states with the highest rates are concentrated, as would be expected, in New England, the Pacific Northwest and West Coast. The states with the lowest rates are located in the Deep South, Appalachia, the northern prairies, Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

Canadian Patent Map (2005)

Canada's national average is only 4.52 patents per 100,000 population. It must be noted, however, that Canadian inventors file 3 times as many patent applications in the U.S. as they do at home. The lowest rates occur in the maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Isle and Newfoundland Labrador. Ontario and Quebec, where most of Canada's manufacturing and high tech companies are located, score 4.72 and 4.47, respectively. The Yukon rate of 12.86 is due to its very small population.

New USPTO Class Orders

Two new classification orders are available on the USPTO web site. Order 1858, published last month, covers Class 348 - Television. Order 1859, published in February, affects Class 192 - Clutches and Power-Stop Control.

Interestingly, Order 1859 has a USPC-ECLA concordance section in addition to the standard USPC-IPC concordance. Could this be a sign that the USPTO is planning to use ECLA codes or is it part of the E-subclass Project started in 2002?

PatentMonkey Review

If a monkey typed at random on a keyboard, how long would it take it to write the complete patents of Thomas Edison? The infinite monkey theorem inspired the name of
PatentMonkey, the latest entrepreneurial start-up in an increasingly crowded field of patent searching and downloading services. It is owned by Invequity, a patent licensing company based in Reston, Virginia. The CEO and co-founder of PatentMonkey is Paul Ratcliffe, a registered patent attorney and former patent examiner.

PatentMonkey, like similar services, is supported in part by advertising and user fees. Users may search and view patents at no charge but must pay in order to download PDF copies of patent documents. Document download credits can be purchased in bundles of 20, 50 and 100; the price per download ranges from $.50 to $1.25. Users may also register for monthly or annual memberships that come with download credits, document management functions and fewer advertisments. Basic monthly membership has 50 downloads while basic annual membership offers 600 downloads. All membership packages offer fewer advertisements and the ability to create up to 100 folders for managing patent documents.

PatentMonkey includes only U.S. utility and reissue patents from August 1975 to the present, or about 3,200,000 utility patents and 10,800 reissue patents. According to the FAQ, published applications and design patents will be added in the near future. However, no mention is made of plant patents, defensive publications and statutory invention registrations. The absence of these miscellaneous patent documents, which number fewer than 25,000, might be excusable, but the lack of published applications (A docs) is a serious weakness. The USPTO has published 1.3 million patent applications since March 2001. About 15 percent of all U.S. patent documents are A docs. It appears that PatentMonkey is updated weekly.

PatentMonkey is a full text database with 29 searchable fields including patent number, date, title, abstract, claims, specification, current U.S. classification, international classification, inventor, assignee, etc. In comparison, the USPTO patent full-text and image database has 31 searchable fields. Test searches retrieved the same or very similar results compared to the USPTO database, discounting searches that retrieved design patents. (See the Patent Database Comparison Slides.)

All in all, PatentMonkey's search functions and search results display are very similar to other services.
There are
five search modes: Quick, Quick+, Advanced, Patent Number and Bulk Patent Number. Quick mode searches terms in 1, 2 or 3 fields; Quick+ searches terms in up to 10 fields; advanced search is not yet available. Inventor and assignee searches use automatic left and right truncation. For example, a search on inventor lastname "Adler" also retrieves "Stadler" and "Sadler". Curiously, left and right truncation and wildcards are not available for keyword searches. Phrase searching is possible using quotation marks.

Another weakness of the system is the lack of integrated U.S. patent classification (USPC) search tools. Users who want to do a classification-based search must first obtain their USPC classes and subclasses from another source, such the USPTO classification tools website. In comparison, the USPTO patent database and Manual of Classification, including schedules, definitions and index, have been integrated since at least 2000.

Figure 1. PatentMonkey Record with Patent Status Display.

PatentMonkey's most useful feature is its patent status indicator. (See Figure 1.) Each retrieved patent record displays a status symbol indicating whether the patent is active, abandoned, abanoned less than 24 months (and eligible for reactivation), expired or status to be determined. The status is computed by a proprietary algorithm and does not take into account patent term extensions or adjustments. Users should
proceed with caution when evaluating status information.

With so many other free U.S. patent downloading services, such as Patent Lens, Pat2PDF and esp@cenet, it will be a challenge for PatentMonkey to find customers willing to pay $.50-$1.25 per patent. Its lack of design patents and published applications, limited truncation capabilities and classification search options are serious weaknesses. PatentMonkey's patent status data is a useful feature not found in other databases, but it should be used in conjunction with the USPTO's Public PAIR system.