Published patent applications (A docs) surged in Q2, setting two new records for weekly and quarterly totals. On June 28, the USPTO published 7,082 A docs, an all-time high. The average number of A docs per week in Q2 was 5,895. The total number of A docs for the quarter was 76,640, a 4.1 percent increase over the same period in 2006. The total number for January through June was 150,917. At this rate, the total number of A docs published in 2007 could easily exceed 300,000, which is still significantly short of the 450,000-475,000 new applications the USPTO will receive this year. It is almost certain that new records will be set in the second half of the year and into 2008.
Patent issues (utility, design, reissue and plant) remained flat in Q2, averaging only 3,525 patents per week. The total number of patents issued in Q2 was 45,828, a 16.3 percent decline from the same period in 2006. The total number of patents issued from January through June was 93,160. At this rate, the USPTO will issue approximately 186,000 patents in 2007, a decline of about 5.4 percent over 2006.
The graph above shows the "peaks and canyons" phenomena that has been so typical of U.S. patent counts over the past year. The "peaks" are spikes in the number of published A docs, gradually increasing in frequency and size over the past six months. Patent issues, on the other hand, are relatively stable from week to week with an occassional drop off that produces a "canyon" in the otherwise flat profile.
Changes are afoot at the USPTO that could in the near future impact the output of A docs and issued patents. The USPTO has introduced rules that would limit the number of continuing applications an applicant could file. Since, according to the USPTO, up to one third of all new applications are continuations, this could lead to a decline in the number of new filings. Which is exactly what the USPTO is expecting (and praying for).
Despite the proliferation of open access patent databases over the last ten years, chemists and life scientists have found it difficult to search for patents related to chemical compounds. This is largely due to the fact that patent offices do not index their patents by chemical name, structure, registry number, etc. Although the USPC and IPC have extensive chemisty classifications, many chemists find patent classification difficult to use and of limited value.
There have been recent unsuccessful attempts to incorporate patent data into open access chemistry databases. Several years ago, the American Chemical Society, which publishes Chemical Abstracts, pressured the NIH to drop plans to integrate patent data into the agency's PubChem database of small molecules.
Researchers now have a new way to find patent information related to chemical substances. ChemSpider(Beta), a new open access chemistry database and federated search engine released in March of this year, recently added patent data from U.S., European and Asian patent offices. Users can search more than 16.5 million chemical compounds in ChemSpider by structure, property, and various indentifiers including systematic name, synonym, trade name, registry number, SMILES or InChI.
For example, the ChemSpinder record for the arthritis drug Celebrex, links to 382 related U.S. patents as compared to 9 patents listed in the FDA's Orange Book. The Orange Book only includes patent data for unexpired patents.
Yesterday I posted some detailed information about patent coverage in Scirus. Here is a more detailed breakdown for U.S. patent coverage:
Utility patents, 1790s- Reissue patents, 1870s- Design patents, 1976- Plant patents, 1976- Defensive publications, not included Statutory invention registrations, 1985- Additional improvement patents, not included
Defensive publications and additional improvement patents appear not to be included at all. Additional improvement patents were allowed from 1836 to 1861. Only about 320 issued. The USPTO registered 4,488 defensive publications from 1968 through 1988. DPs are published abstracts of unexamined patent applications. The entire file of a DP, including a copy of the application as filed, may purchased from the USPTO. DPs were superseded by statutory invention registrations (SIRs) in 1985. Both additional improvement patents and defensive publications are available in the USPTO patent database.
Scirus covers plant and design patents from 1976 forward. Design patents were first registered in 1842 and plant patents in 1931.
You can retrieve a specific US patent by searching the number as a keyword using the following formats:
Utlity USnnnnnn Plant USPPnnnnn Design USDnnnnn Reissue USREnnnnn SIR USHnnnn
There has been a lot of hot air this summer regarding patent reform legislation. Depending on what you read, the proposed Patent Act of 2007 will either 1) Save the U.S. Patent System or 2) Destroy the U.S. Patent System. Since there are several provisions that would affect patent documents (for example, mandatory 18-month publication) librarians who work with patent information should be aware of the issues. Here are a couple of articles that cut through the rhetoric and legalese and provide simple overviews of the key issues and players.
Scirus, the free scientific information search engine provided by Elsevier, includes millions of sci-tech documents, including data for some 21 million patents obtained from LexisNexis. Here's an exact breakdown of Scirus' patent coverage:
EPO from 1978 (grants and pregrants) JPO from 1976 (pregrants, English abstracts only) UK from 1916 (pregrants) USPTO from 1790 (grants#) and 2001 (pregrants*) WIPO from 1978 (pregrants**)
# US coverage does not appear to include plant patents before 1976. * The USPTO began publishing utility and plant patent applications in 2001. ** Published PCT applications.
Many thanks to Danianne Mizzy of the Engineering Library, University of Pennsylvania for this scoop.
The EPO is running an online survey to gather feedback on what users find most and least useful about esp@cenet, and access to free patent information in general.
The EPO has an excellent track record of listening to users, so don't miss this opportunity to suggest improvements. Some improvements I'd like to see are the ability to sort search results and better integration of the ECLA classification search. While I love the ability to search and browse ECLA, transferring ECLA codes to the search form is clunky.
Note to Canadian residents: The survey asks users to identify their location. Unfortunately, Canada was omitted (by accident, I'm sure) from the list of countries. A request for correction has been made.
I'm the librarian for research services in the Engineering and Science Library at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. I've been working with patent information since 1991, including seven years at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. I believe that the dissemination of patent information is a public good and should be promoted, especially in the education of science and engineering students.