Tuesday, March 30, 2010

US Patent Counts, Q1 2010

The USPTO issued 55,488 patents in Q1, 11.3 percent more than the previous quarter and a 12 percent increase over the same period last year. In fact, this was the largest quarterly total in five years. The number of published applications was 77,520, a decline of 12.3 percent from the previous quarter. The global recession has had a negative impact on patent filings worldwide, with most patent offices reporting a decline in new applications over the past year. Since patent applications are published 18 months after filing, the number of published applications may continue to drop throughout 2010.

Table 1. Quarterly Patent Counts*

2010 ..... Patents (B) .....PGPubs (A)..... Total (A + B)
Q1 ..... 55,488 ..... 77,520 ..... 133,008

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 Totals may change after the fact due to withdrawn patents and published applications.

Table 2. Number Ranges for 2010, Jan. 1 - Mar. 30

Utility patents ..... 7,640,598 - 7,690,047
Reissues ..... RE41,067 - RE41,187
PGPubs ..... 2010/0000001 - 2010/0077525
Designs ..... D607,176 - D613,025
Plants ...... PP20,622 - PP20,912
SIRs ..... H2,234

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fostering Canadian Innovation

Today's Globe and Mail has another op-ed piece arguing that Canada needs to do better at promoting innovation and investing in R&D. ("Innovation is Our Hidden Deficit") It's probably true that Canada could do more at home to support innovation and the commercialization of new products. But the picture improves when you look at Canada's performance on the world stage.

For example, Canadian inventors and companies file more patent applications in the U.S. than they do in Canada. In 2007-2008, Canadian inventors filed 11,436 new patent applications with the USPTO but only 5,086 with the CIPO. This is not surprising given that most Canadian companies are eager to protect their IP in the US market. A strong portfolio of US patents will foster new partnerships, investments and business opportunities.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hidden Gems in the USPC: Cross-References & Digests

I'm not a huge fan of the U.S. Patent Classification System. It's not intuitive and its documentation can be intimidating. The structure of the USPC is a mish-mash of historical practices and applied theories. Although it's frequently described as a hierarchical system, it's actually flat, like a train. The numbering and arrangement of the classes (railway cars) has no relationship to their contents. For example, patents relating to Fences, Active Solid-State Devices and Railway Mail Delivery are classified in Classes 256, 257 and 258, respectively. When the number of documents in a class becomes to large, the USPTO simply moves the overflow to another class, not necessarily next to the original. For example, Class 128: Surgery is continued in Classes 604, 606 and 607. All four classes are treated as one mega-class.

As much as I dislike the USPC, it has some useful features (hidden gems) that are worth mentioning. For example, the special classifications called cross-reference art collections (CRACs) and digests. Digests and CRACs differ slightly in scope, but their functions are similar: to identify specific subject matter that doesn't quite fit into an existing USPC subclass. CRACs and digests are located at the end of the class schedule; numbers 900-999 are reserved for CRACs, while digests are identified by the prefix DIG. For example, in Class 2: Apparel, subclass 901 is used for articles of clothing with antibacterial, antitoxin or clean room properties. In the same class, DIG10 is reserved for inflatable hats. Neither code can be assigned as the primary classification.

These supplemental classifications are extremely useful for searching concepts that are not provided for in the regular classification system, e.g. drugs for the treatment of specific types of diseases, chemical technology for decreasing pollution, etc.