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.