Monday, November 09, 2009

Class 705 Reorganized

The USPTO has abolished subclass 14 in Class 705 and replaced it with three dozen subclasses, 14.1 through 14.73. The changes are contained in Classification Order #1888, which was published on Sept. 1, 2009. Established in 1997, Class 705 covers patents relating to Data Processing: Financial, Business Practice, Management or Cost/Price Determination. It is one of the classes covering so-called business method inventions. According to the USPTO database, approximately 20,552 patents, the vast majority issued since 1976, are classified in Class 705. More than twice that number, roughly 54,206, of published applications are also classified in Class 705.

Class 89 Expanded: Cross-Reference Art Collection Subclasses

Just in time for Remembrance Day (Veterans Day in the U.S.), the USPTO has added a series of cross-reference art collection subclasses (901-939) to Class 89, Ordnance. The changes are outlined in Classification Order #1889, which was published on October 6. Class 89 was created in 1901 and includes "all guns adapted to be mounted or supported otherwise than by hand, all explosion-operated guns including hand and shoulder firearms, bomb dropping devices," and all types of artillery mounts, carriages and vehicles. The new subclasses pertain to armor.

Curiously, Class 89 also includes a subclass for "methods of waging war." Some patents included in this eclectic subclass include a "friendly fire prevention system and methods" (US 6,986,302), a "method of protecting a space vehicle" from a laser weapon (US 5,323,682) and a 1943 patent (US 2,313,388) for a "vehicle impeding device," a sort of anti-tank device that looks like a caltrop, an iron three or four pointed spike that was strewn on a battlefield to stop cavalry.

According to the USPTO database, 20,585 patents and 1,066 published applications are classified in Class 89.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Patent Info News Supplement / EPO Discontinues DVD Products

The EPO is now publishing a supplement with its Patent Information News newsletter that covers data and technical topics formerly covered in the INPADOC Patent News. e.g. Legal status codes, country coverage, etc. The first issue contains a nice overview of patent procedure in the U.S.

The latest issue of PIN also states that the EPO will cease production of the ESPACE WORLD DVD at the end of 2010; this product contained digital copies of PCT applications. Three other DVD products, ESPACE ACCESS, FIRST and ACCESS-EPC, are also slated to disapper. The data contained in them is now be available in a new online database called the Global Patent Index (GPI).

Thus marks another step in the long retreat from DVD as a media for disseminating patent info.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Patented Gas Mask Bra Wins Ig Nobel Award

Dr. Elena Bodnar of Chicago has received an Ig Nobel Award for her design of a bra that converts into a pair of gas masks. Dr. Bodnar was granted US patent 7,255,627 B2 on Aug. 14, 2007.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

US Patent Counts, Q3 2009

The USPTO issued 47,042 patents in Q3, a decline of 3.2 percent from the previous quarter and the lowest total this year. The number of published applications was also down slightly, dropping to 76,040 from 81,288 in Q2. Despite this slowdown the USPTO is still on track to exceed last year's total of 312,854 published applications. More than 2.2 million applications have been published since 2001.

Table 1. Quarterly Patent and PGPub Counts*

2009 ..... Patents (B) .....PGPubs (A)..... Total (A + B)
Q1 ..... 49,227 ..... 83,855 ..... 133,112
Q2 ..... 48,596 ..... 81,288 ..... 129,884
Q3 ..... 47,042 ..... 76,040 ..... 123,082

*Based on preliminary weekly data from the USPTO website. Totals may change after the fact due to withdrawn patents and published applications.

Table 2. Weekly Averages and Medians (Q3)

Patents ..... 3,619 ..... 3,729
PGPubs ..... 5,697 ..... 5,768

Table 3. Number Ranges for 2009, Jan. 1 - Sept. 30

Utility patents ..... 7,472,428 - 7,596,812
Reissues ..... RE40,613 - RE40,925
PGPubs ..... 2009/0000001 - 2009/0241233
Designs ..... D584,026 - D601,325
Plants ...... PP19,613 - PP20,374
SIRs ..... H2,228 - H2,232

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Patent Map from FreePatentsOnline

FreePatentsOnline has launched a new patent mapping service called Local Patents. The service combines inventor and assignee city data from 3 million US patents and published applications with a map of the US generated by Google Maps.

It's very cool. You can drill down from the state level to city/town. The number of patent documents in a given geographic area is displayed in a circle ranging from purple (for high numbers) to green (for low numbers). Clicking on the city/town will list the titles of the documents granted to inventors/assignees in that location.

There a some glitches. A few patents do appear in Canadian cities, but not enough to account for all the US patents granted to Canadian residents. Some of these appear to be correct, but others are obviously wrong.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Design Patent #600,000

Design patent no. 600,000 was issued this week to Goal Zero of Spanish Fork, Utah. The patent protects the design of a battery system.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Robotic Fish Farms

Fish farming is under attack from environmentalists who claim that it pollutes bays and inlets and spreads infectious diseases like salmon anaemia. The main problem is that cages used in most fish farms are fixed in place, which concentrates fish waste and uneaten food on the sea floor. Clifford Goudey, a researcher at MIT, has invented a fish pen propelled by robotic engines, which will allow fish farmers to deploy their pens in a wider area and along natural fish migration routes. Goudey has patented a number of fishing-related inventions, including a mobile ring fish pen. (US5617813)

Patents related to floating fish farms are classified in ECLA A01K61/00F.

Underwater Logging

A story in the Globe and Mail this week reported on a project to harvest dead trees, including valuable teak and mahogany, from a man-made lake in Ghana. The total value of the wood is estimated at up to $3 billion. This isn't the first time that entrepreneurs have proposed recovering wood from the bottom of lakes and rivers. By some estimates, millions of logs were lost in North American rivers during log drives in the last century. Several small-scale recovery projects in BC and the State of Maine are underway. It made me wonder if anyone had patented technology for underwater logging.

Patents related to forestry are classified in ECLA classification A01G23. So a logical esp@cenet search strategy might be to combine A01G23 with the keywords "underwater" OR "submerg*". This retrieves six documents, including three by inventor Cyril Burton of Castlegar, BC. Burton's earliest patent was issued in 1973 for an "Underwater Saw for Stump and Tree Removal"; his most recent, a "Submersible Logging Device", was issued in 1999. A Canadian application published in 2003 (CA2635367) describes a "method and apparatus for underwater tree cutting and retrieval" that involves a remote-controlled submarine and inflatable airbags.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

New Leadership at the USPTO

The USPTO has a new leader. On Thursday, August 13, David Kappos was sworn in as the Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He's the 52nd person to hold that position since it was established in 1836.

The appointment and confirmation of Kappos was fairly speedy: only 6 months and 24 days after President Obama's inauguration. President George W. Bush took almost eleven months to appoint James E. Rogan head of the USPTO in 2001. Bruce Lehman, President Clinton's first Commissioner of Patents, was sworn in on Aug. 11, 1993.

How long will Kappos stay? The average term in recent years is between 2-4 years. Jon Dudas, Kappos' immediate predecessor, served from Jan. 2004 to Nov. 2008 (including 5 months as acting director). James Rogan, President Bush's first USPTO chief, served barely two years, from Dec. 2001 to Jan. 2004. Q. Todd Dickinson also served just 2 years, Jan. 1, 1999 to Jan. 20, 2001, including almost a year as acting director. Bruce Lehman served from 1993 through the end of 1998, almost 5.5 years.

Kappos faces a number of tough challenges including a huge backlog of pending applications, declining revenue due to lower filings and fewer paid maintenance fees, delayed patent reform legislation and disatisfaction among the USPTO's 6,000 patent examiners.

The longest serving USPTO directors of the last hundred years were Thomas E. Robertson, who served during the Harding, Coolidge and Hoover administrations from 1921 through 1933, and Conway Coe, who served from 1933 through 1945. The director with the shortest tenure was Melvin Coulston, who served just one month, March 3 to April 5, 1921.

Friday, August 14, 2009

"Investing in patents is no country for old men."

... That's the message one pundit sees in this week's patent infringement ruling against Microsoft. The article makes some interesting points about the cost of litigating a patent lawsuit and speculates on why Microsoft (or any high tech company) might chance a lawsuit rather than license a new and unproven technology.

i4i won a huge legal victory. But at what cost?
Fabrice Taylor
Globe and Mail, Aug. 14, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Les Paul, 1915-2009

World-renowned musician Les Paul, whose invention of the solid-body electric guitar transformed popular music in the 1950s and 60s, died on Aug. 12 at the age of 94. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2005.

Mr. Paul held at least two patents related to electric guitars. The first, which is mentioned in his NIHF bio, was issued in 1962. (US 3,018,680) The second, US 3,725,561, was issued ten years later in 1973. Both have been cited in numerous patents over the last forty years.

Many musicians have followed Les Paul's example and patented inventions. Eddie Van Halen, co-founder of the 1980s mega-band Van Halen, has two patents (US 7,183,475 and US 4,656,917) and a design patent for a guitar peghead, US D388117. And in 1993, Michael Jackson patented (US 5,255,452) a special shoe that would allow a wearer to lean forward beyond his or her center of gravity, thus creating "an anti-gravity illusion".

Patent Ruling Against Microsoft

The big news today is the patent dispute between software leviathan Microsoft and i4i, a small (30 employees) Toronto-based software developer. Two years ago i4i sued Microsoft for using its patented technology in Microsoft Word. Yesterday, a judge in Texas overseeing the case ordered Microsoft to stop selling Word in sixty days.

The patent in question is US 5,787,449, a "method and system for manipulating the architecture and the content of a document separately from each other." Basically, i4i invented a way to turn the information in any word processing document into a searchable database by mapping the metacodes, such as XML, in the document.

Although relatively few patents are cited in later patents, i4i's patent, which was issued in 1998, has been cited by a dozen patents assigned to IBM, Microsoft, Sun, Hitachi, Xerox and Netscape. This is a strong indication that i4i's technology is important.

It's interesting to note that computer-controlled text processing technology goes back more than 50 years. i4i's patent is classified in USPC Class 715, which covers data processing related to documents, interfaces and screen savers. About 20,000 patents and 20,000 published applications are classified in 715. The earliest patent classified in 715 is US 2,762,485, issued on Sept. 11, 1956, for an "automatic composing machine." The patent describes a system for printing text using a computer-controlled type-setting machine.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

US Assignment Data in espacenet

The June issue of Patent Information News states that the EPO is in the process of reloading US assignment records into its legal status database. When the project is finished US patents in esp@cenet will be linked to more than six million assignments dating back to 1981. Assignment data has been available for some US docs in esp@cenet, but much of the data was corrupted by technical problems. I assume that this includes all the data available on the USPTO's web assignment database and Cassis ASSIGN, although both give a slightly earlier start date of August 1980.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Nortel's Patent Plum

Nortel Networks, one of Canada's leading telecommunication technology companies during the 20th century, is bankrupt and in the process of selling off its assets, including its hefty portfolio of thousands of patents and other intellectual property. This week a high profile spat broke out between two rival bidders, Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, and mobile phone giant Ericsson. Nationalism is partly to blame (RIM is a Canadian company) but also at issue is the fate of Nortel's patents. RIM is keen get Nortel's patents related to wireless LTE technology.

By rough count, Nortel's patent portfolio includes more than 3,500 granted U.S. patents, some 760 published patent applications, and approximately 1,000 Canadian patents and pending applications. Thousands more were granted under its former name, Northern Electric Co., which it officially changed in the early 1990s. This is probably one of the largest patent firesales in history.

Class 310 Reorganized

The USPTO has reorganized Class 310: Electrical Generator or Motor Structure. Details are provided in Classification Order #1887. Class 310, which was created in 1953, is a bit atypical in that it is a residual class intended to cover technology related to electrical generator or motor structure not classified elsewhere. Which means that searchers may need to consult other related electrical and mechanical classes.

There are currently about 65,000 patents and 13,000 published applications classified in Class 310.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

One Giant Step for Mankind? Moon Ads?

While the world celebrates the 40th anniversary of the first manned-mission to the moon, an entrepreneur in Utah wants to patent a system for creating ads on the moon.

David Jones, owner of Moon Publicity of West Valley City, Utah, has filed a U.S. provisional application for "Shadow Shaping," a system that uses robotic vehicles to carve product names, logos and web URLs into the surface of the moon. The serial number of the application is 61/150,054, which means that it was probably filed in October or November of 2008. Jones has one year to file a regular patent application based on his provisional. Provisional applications are not published, so it may be more than a year before the world gets to see the details of his invention.

Inventions relating to advertising are generally classified in Class 40, Card, Picture or Sign Exhibiting. This includes skywriting and ground advertisements designed to be seen from aircraft.

Patent Models on Display at Harvard

Harvard University's Science Center has a new exhibit of 19th century American patent models. The exhibit, which is called "Patent Republic," is on display until December and features about 75 patent models from the collection of Susan M. E. Glendening, a New York collector.

From 1836 to 1880, The U.S. Patent Office required inventors to submit a model of their inventions with their patent applications. The models were kept on public display at the Patent Office and became a popular tourist attraction. By the 1870s, however, maintaining the collection, which had grown to hundreds of thousands of models, became a serious burden on the office. Some 87,000 models were destroyed by fire in 1877. In the 1890s, the Patent Office began placing models in storage and eventually the office disposed of the collection, with several thousand models going to the Smithsonian Institution and the families of inventors. The rest were sold or discarded.

Patent models were required in other countries during the 19th century, but most had abandoned the practice by 1900. In Canada, patent models were no longer required after 1892, although the Commissioner of Patents reserved the right to request a model. Some countries continued to require models for certain types of inventions. Germany, for example, required models for firearms and skates and Switzerland required models for firearms and watch movements.

Patent models are highly prized by some collectors. In 1979, Cliff Petersen, a retired engineer, bought about 35,000 models with the intent of establishing a museum. In addition to the Glendening collection, other privately-owned patent model collections include the Rothschild Petersen Patent Model Museum, which contains some 4,000 models obtained from the Petersen estate.

See also "Patent Models Strange Odyssey" by Theresa Riordan, New York Times, Feb. 18, 2002.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Patent Statistics and Economic Development: Pros and Cons

Patent attorney Stephen Nipper and fellow blogger Chris Blanchard make some interesting comments on the use and misuse of patent statistics as measures of economic development and technological innovation. Both point to the case of Idaho, which in recent years has been ranked #1 in patents per capita thanks to the presence of Micron and HP, two patent powerhouses, in Boise.

I agree that patent statistics, like most statistical measures, can be misleading. In Canada, for example, tiny Yukon, pop. 31,000, ranks #1 in patents per capita, compared to the more populous and industralized provinces of Alberta (3.2 million), Ontario (12.5 million) and Quebec (7.5 million). Blanchard argues that patent statistical outliers like Yukon should be omitted or at least accounted for in economic development studies.

Nipper and Blanchard's criticism is a valid one, but I think it's wrong to completely dismiss patents as a useful (but indirect) measure of economic development. A large number of patents issued to a particular region or city might suggest a large population of highly educated engineers or successful independent inventors. For example, inventor Solly Angel, author of The Tale of the Scale, used patent statistics to decide what city might offer the best support network for a first-time inventor. He settled on New York because of its high concentration of patent attorneys, inventors, consulting engineers and suppliers.

Most patent offices publish annual patent statistics. The USPTO also publishes numerous reports on patent activity by organization, technology and geographic area. The WIPO collects and publishes patent statistics from around the world.

Friday, July 17, 2009

US Patent Counts, Q2 2009

The USPTO issued 48,596 patents in Q2, down slightly from 2008, and published 81,288 applications, 4.6 percent more than the same period last year. Approximately 2.1 million plant and utility patent applications have been published since 2001. The USPTO is on track to publish more than 330,000 applications in 2009, which would be the largest total on record.

Plant patent no. PP20,000 was issued on May 19, 2009 for a new and distinct type of Cuphea plant, a type of flowering shrub. The inventor is Christiaan Unger of Worms, Germany, who is credited with three other plant patents. Design patent no. 600,000 is expected in October. Only two statutory invention registrations have been registered this year, which suggests that their popularity is waning. SIRs are, for all intents and purposes, simply published applications. They may be cited as prior art but carry no patent rights.

Table 1. Quarterly Patent and PGPub Counts*

2009 ..... Patents (B) .....PGPubs (A)..... Total (A + B)
Q1 ..... 49,227 ..... 83,855 ..... 133,112
Q2 ..... 48,596 ..... 81,288 ..... 129,884

*Based on preliminary weekly data from the USPTO website. Totals may change after the fact due to withdrawn patents and published applications.

Table 2. Weekly Averages and Medians (Q2)

Patents ..... 3,738 ..... 3,764
PGPubs ..... 6,253 ..... 6,228

Table 3. Number Ranges for 2009, Jan. 1 - June 30

Utility patents ..... 7,472,428 - 7,555,787
Reissues ..... RE40,613 - RE40,817
PGPubs ..... 2009/0000001 - 2009/0183289
Designs ..... D584,026 - D595,475
Plants ...... PP19,613 - PP20,148
SIRs ..... H2,228 - H2,229

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Inventor of Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed, 1916-2009

The inventor of the Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed, John Houghtaling, died last week at the age of 92. Houghtaling patented his invention in 1962 (US 3,035,572), and founded Magic Fingers, Inc. to commercialize it. His company installed millions of units in hotel and motel rooms across America in the 1960s and 70s.

Houghtaling wasn't the first inventor to conceive of a mechanical device to relieve weary or weak muscles. In 1869, Allen L. Wood of New York City, patented an "apparatus for treating diseases" (US 97,944) that consisted "of certain mechanisms, whereby circular or rotary motion... is made to perform several operations of rubbing, kneading, and giving vibratory and other action to muscles and various parts of the system." Wood's device (see below) looks more like a medieval torture rack designed to extract confessions than heal the sick.

Other similar devices are found in USPC Class 601, Surgery: Kinesitherapy, subclass 40+.

Friday, June 19, 2009

AusPat v1.3 Enhancements

IP Australia has announced the release of AusPat v1.3, the new web-based Australian patent database that replaced the PatSearch system in early 2008. AusPat v1.3 enhancements include (quoting from the release memo):
  1. "e-Journal functionality has been incorporated into AusPat with the introduction of a new search field (called “Publication”) allowing users to search by Publication Action and Journal* Range.
  2. The “Acceptance Published Date” search field has been removed. To search for applications by Acceptance Published Date use the new “Publication” search field.
  3. Search and display of limited publication history for PATADMIN applications.
  4. Ability to launch electronic Journal.*
  5. Link to add AusPat to Instant Search Box for users with IE 7."
* The Australian Official Journal of Patents

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Patented Mouse That Roared

This week's Nature magazine reports that two genetic research labs, Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine and the Central Institute for Experimental Animals in Kawasaki, Japan, are involved in dispute over a patent mouse. CIEA sued Jackson in December, 2008 for infringing its patent, US 7,145,055, issued in 2006.

Jackson Lab, a non-profit, doesn't patent its discoveries, except in a few limited cases. CIEA's patent portfolio consists of just a few patents.

Patents for transgenic mice are generally classified in Class 800, Multicellular Living Organisms. Approximately 625 patents for transgenic mice and several hundred more for genetically modified cows, pigs, fishes, birds and swine
have been issued since the late 1980s. The first patent, US 4,736,866, for a transgenic mouse, the so-called Harvard mouse, was issued in 1988.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Canada Rejects Amazon's One-Click Patent

The Canadian Patent Appeal Board has rejected Amazon's patent application (CA 2246933 A1) for its one-click online shopping feature, according to a report in ipFrontline. The Board's decision deals a blow against so-called business methods, which it believes are not patentable subject matter under the Canadian Patent Act.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Boliven Patent Goes Commercial

Boliven Patents is now a "professional-grade" fee-based service, according to an e-mail sent yesterday to current members of the Boliven Network. The service was launched in January as a free beta patent search engine with integrated analytical tools, search alerts and data export functions. It now includes more than 60 million patent documents from the US, Europe, Japan, Korea and others. Recently added data includes INPADOC/DOCDB data and US patent assignments.

Current members will have complimentary access for three months, after which they must pay $60 per month on a month-to-month basis. New users will be eligible for a free two-week trial period.

This isn't surprising news, given that Boliven is a private firm with a pretty obvious business plan. But I was hoping that the beta period would last longer or that part of the service would remain available to the public. This development underscores the danger of relying on third-party patent database providers to provide access to public patent information. They can disappear at any moment. Will FreePatentsOnline or Patent Lens be next?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Website Compares Patent Search Systems

Landon IP, a private firm specializing in patent and trademark searches and patent analytics, has launched Intellogist, a free website that aims to help patent searchers locate sources of patent information, evaluate public and commercial patent search systems and exchange best practices in prior art searching. This service will be useful to both novice and experienced patent searchers. The site is supported in part by advertising.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

USPC Class Order #1886

The USPTO has published Classification Order #1886, which affects subclasses in Class 439 - Electrical Connectors. As of April 8, there are approximately 76,000 patents and 17,000 published applications classfied in Class 439, which is the "generic class for a pair of mated conductors comprising at least two electrically conducting elements which are interconnected to permit relative motion of such conducting elements during use without a break in electrical conductivity." The earliest patent in this class is RE200 issued in 1851 to George H. Corlis of Provdence, Rhode Island for an improvement in cut-off values in steam engines.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

US Patent Counts, Q1 2009

The number of US patents (B docs) issued in Q1 was 49,227, a 13 percent increase over 2008. However, this may be only a temporary blip. The USPTO's campaign to improve patent quality has increased the number of rejections to a level not seen in several decades. The USPTO's allowance rate at the end of 2008 was about 44.2 percent, a steep decline from 2000 when the allowance rate was 72 percent. And there is a growing belief that the current worldwide recession will cause a 5-10 percent decline in the number of new applications in 2009, which may ultimately lead to fewer issued patents.

The USPTO issued patent no. 7,500,000 on March 3.

The number of published applications (A docs) dipped slightly to 83,855, an 8 percent increase over 2008. Approximately 2,042,000 million plant and utility patent applications have been published since 2001. The two millionth application was published in February.

Table 1. Quarterly Patent and PGPub Counts*

2009 ..... Patents (B) .....PGPubs (A)..... Total (A + B)
Q1 ..... 49,227 ..... 83,855 ..... 133,112

*Based on preliminary weekly data from the USPTO website. Totals may change after the fact due to withdrawn patents and published applications.

Table 2. Weekly Averages and Medians (Q1)

Patents ..... 3,516 ..... 3,756
PGPubs ..... 6,453 ..... 6,353

Table 3. Number Ranges for 2009

Utility patents ..... 7,472,428 -
Reissues ..... RE40,613 -
PGPubs ..... 2009/0000001 -
Designs ..... D584,026 -
Plants ...... PP19,613 -
SIRs ..... H2,228 -

Friday, March 27, 2009

IPC Reforms Aim to Integrate USPTO, EPO and JPO Classifications

WIPO just announced a series of reforms that will simplify the IPC. One of the goals is to accelerate the building of a unified IPC system that integrates USPTO, EPO and JPO classifications.

Could a true international patent classification system be at hand?

This is a positive step and should make life easier for patent searchers of all levels of experience, from novices to experts. The need to work in four different systems is challenging even for experienced searchers.

However, there is a potential risk that some of the information currently embedded in local classification systems might be lost.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Trademarks Go Green

World Intellectual Property Day is April 26, just over a month away. This year's theme is green innovation. The environment and climate change have become major political and public opinion issues in the over last few years. Companies and advertisers have certainly noticed this trend and are keen to link their products and services with environmentally friendly values. More and more products are being branded as "green". You can see this trend in trademark filings. As the chart below shows, the number of US and Canadian trademark applications filed for marks containing the word GREEN increased dramatically in the last few years. In 2007 alone, the number of filings increased in the US 131 percent and in Canada 88 percent.

Data source: USPTO and CIPO trademark databases, March 20, 2009.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Canadian Patents Reach 18,554 in 2007-2008

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office released its annual report for 2007-2008 earlier this year. The number of patents granted in 2007-2008 was 18,554, up from 16,100 in 2006-2007. The United States ranked first with 8,534 patents, or 46 percent of the total. Japan was second with 1,814 followed by Canada with 1,813. Almost 90 percent of Canadian patents were granted to foreign inventors.

Canadian Patents: Top Ten Countries

United States.....8534.....46%

USPC Class Order #1886 - Class 439

The USPTO has published classification order #1886, affecting Class 439 - Electrical Connectors. This order replaces subclasses 607-610 with subclasses 607.01-607.59. Approximately 1,650 patents were classified as original references in the reorganized subclasses. There are approximately 76,000 patents currently classified in Class 439.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

US Issues Patent 7,500,000

The USPTO issued patent no. 7,500,000 on March 3, marking a new milestone in US patent documents. The subject of the patent is a "Method or System for Assigning or Creating a Resource" in a computer storage device, such as a hard disk drive, non-volatile RAM, or optic disc. The patent was issued to four inventors, led by David W. Groves, and assigned to IBM.

Patent no. 7,000,000 was issued three years ago on Feb. 14, 2006 to John P. O'Brien of Dupont for a new type of polysaccharide fibers and their production.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

USPTO Publishes 2,000,000th Application

On February 5, the USPTO reached an important patent document milestone: the two millionth published application. The first US application (2001/0000001) was published almost eight years ago on March 15, 2001. The USPTO published 6,581 applications on Feb. 5. Depending on how you count (including or not including withdrawn published applications), the two millionth published application could be 2009/0035278, Reoviruses Having Modified Sequences, or 2009/0033321, Rotational Angle Detection Device.

The inventor listed on the first application is Matthew Coffey of Calgary, Alberta. The assignee is Oncolytics Biotech, Inc., also located in Calgary. Reoviruses are used to treat disorders where cells proliferate more rapidly than normal tissue growth, ie. cancerous tumors, in mammals. The inventor on the second application is Takeo Kurihara of Tokyo; the assignee is Tokyo-based Tomen Electronics Corporation. Kurihara's invention is related to devices used in magnetic sensors. Tomen has filed PCT and national applications on this technology in the US, Japan, China and Europe.

As of March 1, 2009, according to the USPTO website, the AppFT database now contains records for 2,021,756 published utility and plant patent applications.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wikipedia References Increase

The Jan. 29 of CNET's Buzz Report has a funny rant about Apple's recently issued patent on a multi-touch graphical user interface. (US 7479949) Complaining about the USPTO's examination practices, reporter Molly Wood cites examples of existing prior art on multi-touch technology. Her funniest line is "This is on Wikipedia... you could look this up!"

Back in September 2006, the USPTO ordered examiners to stop using Wikipedia as a source of information for determining the patentability of inventions. However, examiners and applicants continue to cite it. The number of patents issued in 2008 that cited Wikipedia articles nearly doubled to 508.

Titles Added to Cited References in FPO

US patent records in FreePatentsOnline now display titles of cited US patent documents. This is a nice improvement since it provides more information about the reference without forcing you to leave the current document. Titles of cited references available in the USPTO database nor are included on patent documents.

However, I noticed recently that some FPO records do not include all the older cited references. For example, US 3,803,463 cites 8 US patent documents, the earliest being 8,843 issued in 1852 and 644,896 from 1900. However, the FPO record for this patent displays only 6 cited patents, the earliest being 2,401,815 from 1946.

After further testing it appears that the problem is limited to pre-1976 patents.

Inventor of TASER stun gun dies at age 88

Jack (John) Cover, inventor of the TASER stun gun used by thousands of police departments worldwide, has died at the age of 88. According to his obituary in the Washington Post, Cover, a former NASA scientist, invented the nonlethal device in the late 1960s in response to hijackings and riots. He applied for a patent for a "weapon for immbolization and capture" in 1970, filed a continuation on July 10, 1972 and and was finally granted a patent (US 3803463) on April 9, 1974.

Cover's 1974 patent has been cited by 43 patents including an "Electronic Disabling Device Having an Adjustable Output Pulse Power" issued on January 6, 2009 to Corey Rutz and Michael Kramer and assigned to the Defense Technology Corp. of America in Casper WY. (US 7474518)

The electric gun has been a long-time fixture in sci-fi and adventure stories. In fact, the name TASER was inspired by Cover's favorite character from a novel called Tom Swift and his Electric Rifle (TSER). The A was added later to make the name easier to pronounce. Inventors have been fascinated by electric weapons for more than 100 years. In his 1974 patent, Cover cited an electric harpoon patented by Dr. Albert Sounenburg and Phillipp Rechten in 1852. (US 8843). This is another great example of the importance of including older prior art in patent searches.

TASER International is based in Scottsdale, AZ and holds 25 US patents and dozens more worldwide.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Top Inventor Receives 577 US Patents in 2008

The other rather surprising statistic in the Boliven Patents Top 25 Report for 2008 was number of patents secured by the top-ranked inventor, Kia Silverbrook, founder of Silverbrook Research, a private R&D firm based in Sydney, Australia that specializes in inkjet printer technology. According to the report, and confirmed by checking the USPTO website, Silverbook received 577 US patents in 2008 (581 according to the USPTO). That's almost two patents a day. This is amazing. Thomas Edison received only 1,093 patents in his 60-year career. As of Feb. 12, Silverbrook is credited as an inventor on 2,430 US patents and 3,435 published applications. According to Silverbrook Research's website, the firm has more than 1,800 patents and 2,000 pending applications and employs over 400 research scientists, engineers and support staff.

Chinese University Ranks 10 in US Patents

This week Boliven Patents released its first Top 25 Report for 2008.

Some rather unexpected statistics caught my attention. The first was in the university assignees category. Not surprisingly, US schools dominated the list. The top five included the Univ. of California (252), MIT (228), Stanford (137), Caltech (115), and Wisconsin (99). But just breaking into the top ten was Tsinghua University (60), one of China's leading universities. According to the school's website, Tsinghua has 44 research institutes, 9 engineering research centres and 163 laboratories, including 15 national laboratories. And #24 was the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. This seems to confirm a trend noted by the WIPO and other organizations: patent activity in Asia is increasing rapidly. It's nice to see American universities getting some competition.

(The USPTO also produces a statistical report on academic patenting, but it only includes U.S. colleges and universities and was last updated in 2006.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Canadian Patents Database - Representative Drawings

The CIPO's Canadian Patents Database now displays representative drawings in patent records. This is a great improvement as it allows searchers to immediately see drawings as they scan search results instead of requiring them to open up the drawing image file for each record. It appears that representative drawings are only available for issued patents and laid-open applications from about 1990 forward.

New USPC Classification Orders: #1881-1884

The USPTO's patent classification office has been busy the past few weeks. Four new classification orders (#s 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884) have been published since January 1, not including the one that I mentioned the other day that established Class 850 (#1885). The new orders outline changes to:

Sunday, February 08, 2009

New USPC Class: 850 - Scanning Probe Techniques or Apparatus

The USPTO has created a new USPC class for inventions related to devices that scan or probe at the nano-scale. The full title is Class 850, Scanning-probe techniques and apparatus; applications of scanning probe techniques, e.g. scanning probe microscopy (SPM). The class was established under Classification Order 1885, released on Feb. 3. At this time, Class 850 consists of 63 subclasses, 1-63. No patents or published applications in the USPTO web-based database have been assigned to Class 850. This is not unusual as the classification data is updated bimonthly.

Consolidated Glossary of USPC Terms

A new Consolidated Glossary of U.S. Patent Classification Terms is now available on the USPTO patent classification website. The glossary consists of a comprehensive list of terms taken from the classification definitions of the USPC. Terms are listed in alphabetical order and grouped by class number for easy browsing. These definitions are useful to patent searchers in that many terms found in the USPC manual have technology-specific definitions that are different from standard dictionary definitions.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

New Patent Databse from Boliven

Boliven, a New York-based company, has launched a free patent database called Boliven Patents Beta.

The database contains data and images for US patents from 1976 to present, EP documents from 1978 forward, WO applications from 1989 forward and JP abstracts from 1976 forward. Search options include Basic, Advanced, Expert and Patent Number.

Search results can be filtered by source, assignee, date, and document type and sorted by relevance or date. A "QuickFlip" display option allows searchers to flip through displays of front pages very quickly.

Users who register for personal accounts (by invitation only) can take advantage of analytical tools, search histories, alerts and lists. For more information, see the press release.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Patent Filings Slow Amid Economic Slowdown

The worldwide economic crisis appears to be having an impact on international patent filings. This week the WIPO announced that the number of international patent application filings in 2008 increased by 2.4 percent, a big drop from the 9.3 percent average pver the past several years. However, the number of applications filed was 164,000, an all-time high. The countries with the largest increases were Korea (12%) , China (11.9%) and Sweden (12.5%). The U.S. experienced a 1 percent drop. Australia, Italy, Netherlands, UK also experienced declines. Canada had a very respectable 4.2% increase.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New Guide to Using Patent Information from WIPO

WIPO recently published a new 44-page guide to using patent information.
The guide explains what a patent is, the information contained in a patent document, where patent information can be found, and how to use basic patent search strategies. Almost half of the guide is devoted to explaining how patent information can be used.
It's a well-written, concise introduction to the benefits of using patent information.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Locating Re-examination Certificates

Patent attorney Stephen Nipper recently posted on his blog, The Invent Blog, a question about re-examination numbers. It seems that the USPTO website has some erroneous examples of re-examination document numbers.

In brief, anyone may file a request for a rexamination of a patent on the basis of prior art consisting of patents or other publications. The USPTO will examine the prior art and decided whether some, all or none of the claims of the patent in question should stand. At the end of the review the USPTO issues a re-examination certificate that sets forth the results of re-examination. This certificate is then attached to the original patent.

Re-examination certificates are not indexed in the USPTO's web-based patent database. Instead, users can retrieve a copy of the certificate by retrieving the original patent, e.g. by searching the patent number and clicking on the "Images" button to see the TIFF image. The re-exam certificate is attached after the claims section. (See 3,876,375.)

When a request for re-examination is filed, the USPTO assigns the case a control number preceded by a series code. The series code 90 is used for ex parte re-examination proceedings (90/009,335) and 95 for inter partes proceedings (95/001,115). Since 1981 there have been approximately 9,500 ex parte re-examinations filed. And 500 inter partes re-exams have been requested since November, 1999. The number of requests has nearly doubled in the last decade, increasing from 350 in fiscal year 1998 to 650 in 2008.

It is possible to retrieve re-examination filings in the USPTO's Public PAIR (Patent Application Information Retrieval) System. Simply search the re-examination control number (including the series code, e.g. 90/010334). The file wrapper will contain all the documents and forms involved in the re-examination, including a copy of the patent in question, submitted prior art, e.g. patents and non-patent literature.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Promoting IP Awareness - Database of Materials

The WIPO has a new database called IP Outreach in Practice which contains "basic information and links to practical examples of interesting IP outreach initiatives."

It's quite an interesting collection and a great place to look for inspiration and ideas. You can search by category (IP creation, IP use and awareness, IP crime), format (tv program, curriculum material, newsletter, etc.). There's an advanced search for more complicated queries.

WIPO wants to continue building the collection. You can send examples of outreach materials or initiatives to

Friday, January 09, 2009

Browser Toolbar for Patent Info Resources

Patent Pal is a new browser toolbar that links numerous patent information tools and resources. Included are over 30 patent search sites, numerous IP blogs and newsfeeds, patent office websites, manuals, job sites, and much more. Users can customize the toolbar and add their favorite sites. This is a very cool and useful tool... one of the best I've seen in years. Patent Pal can be downloaded from

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Patent Databases: 2008 in Review

Early in 2008 the USPTO installed verification software in its Public PAIR (Patent Application Information Retrieval) system that requires users to enter a two-word code in order to access patent and published application files. This was done in response to repeated bulk downloading by web spiders and automated scripts that severely degraded PAIR's performance.

In September, WIPO announced that the complete file contents of published international applications would be made available through the PATENTSCOPE search system. As of December 30, 2008 only the PCT request form is available. Other types of documents to be added include correspondence, copies of forms and original documents filed by applicants.

In December, WIPO announced that it would suppress inventor and individual applicant address information in PATENSCOPE due to privacy concerns. This will apparently not affect PATENSCOPE searches or RSS search alerts based on inventor address criteria. And address data will still appear on the frontpage of PCT published applications in PDF format.

On January 1, 2009 WIPO implemented three new kind codes (A4, A8 and A9) for republished PCT applications.

EPO esp@cenet
In October, EPO introduced a number of enhancements to the esp@cenet international patent database. These include increasing the number of documents stored in "My List" from 20 to 100; the ability to export data from search results (up to 30 records at a time); date range searching; highlighting search terms; and a single Google-like search box.

IP Australia
In April IP Australia launched a new patent search system called AusPat. Contents include bibliograhic data from 1970 forward and full-text data from about 1998 forward. IP Australia's old system, PatentSearch, will be retired in February 2009.

In September FPO increased the storage of individual accounts to a maximum of 20 portfolios and 10,000 documents. FPO also added a chemical search function. SumoBrain, another fee-based patent search system from the creators of FPO, introduced free individual user accounts.
Launched in September, offers access to full text US utility, reissue and design patents, published applications (including plant patent applications) from 1976 to the present and European patent documents from 1998? forward. Search modes include simple, advanced and expert; about thirty searchable fields. A bulk search option allows users to retrieve multiple patents by number. is the reincarnation of, a patent search site that operated from early 2006 to January 2008.

Google Patents
Google Patents added US published applications but data is about six months behind.