Friday, April 30, 2010

Canadian Inventor/Designer Robert Dickie

The Globe and Mail's business magazine has an interesting profile of Canadian inventor and industrial designer Robert G. Dickie. ("The Business of Brainstorms", April 29) Dickie's firm, Spark Innovations, is responsible for designing dozens of products ranging from electric toothbrushes to medical devices. He has 51 Canadian patents and published applications, 84 US patents and 62 published applications, and has filed dozens more around the world. He also has some unconventional ideas on what makes a successful invention and inventor.

Monday, April 26, 2010

10th World IP Day and New Logo for WIPO

Today is the 10th anniversary of World Intellectual Property Day and the 40th anniversary of the WIPO.

In celebration, WIPO has adopted a new logo. It's the first time the logo has been changed since the organization was established in 1970.

Although some people will probably complain that the new logo is too "corporate", I think it's a definite improvement over the old one, which was cluttered... And what was the deal with the big star anyway? It always reminded me of a Soviet military medal.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Green Tech Program

Scientific American reports that the USPTO has approved only one third of the requests filed under its new "Green Tech" examination pilot program.

Wikipedia Not an Authoritative Source, Judges Tell Govt. Officials

Several Canadian judges have criticized immigration officials for citing Wikipedia articles in decisions to deport or deny entrance to foreigners. (Judges rap Wiki-evidence... Globe and Mail, Apr. 21) This is the most recent case of government agents using the online collaborative encyclopedia as an authoritative source.

In 2006 the USPTO ordered patent examiners not to use Wikipedia as a source of prior art information, but the number of patents that cite Wikipedia has continued to increase. (Many references are provided by applicants.) In the first four months of 2010, 348 issued patents contained references to wikipedia articles, a 27 percent increase over the same period last year.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chinese Patent Number System

According to a note on the EPO's Asian Patent Helpdesk, the Chinese patent office has adopted a new numbering scheme for published applications and issued patents. Prior to April 2010, applications and patents were published with different numbers. The new system uses the same number for both stages with the appropriate document kind code, e.g. A, A8 and A9 for published applications and B, B8 and B9 for granted patents.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Reporting Data Errors in Patent Databases

Kudos to esp@cenet for providing an easy and convenient way for users to report data errors. Each record includes a link to an error reporting form; all you have to do is click and fill in a few lines. This week I reported my first error (an incorrect application number and date) and within two days the record was updated.

Why don't more patent offices do this? Patent databases are teeming with errors. You'd think they would take advantage of the tens of thousands of users who use their databases every day.

The USPTO provides an e-mail for reporting data errors but it's located on a page outside the database, which means that you have to stop your search, open up a new window, find the page and then compose an e-mail. Very cumbersome.

I wasn't able to find any way to report an error in the WIPO's PatentScope. The CIPO's Canadian Patent Database includes the e-mail and telephone number for the Client Service Centre in each record, but it doesn't make it clear that you can or should report errors.

New University Patents Database

FreePatentsOnline has partnered with Technology Transfer Tactics, a website for university tech transfer professionals, to provide a resource for searching university-owned patents.

Data for about 150 universities (mostly American) is available. Clicking on a name of a university will retrieve a list of US patents and published applications assigned to that university.

The number retrieved may be different from what you retrieve in a manual search. For example, the link for Johns Hopkins University retrieved 1,766 documents, but I was able to retrieve 1,950 documents in FPO using the search query an/"johns hopkins". The same search in the USPTO databases retrieved 1,852 documents. It's not clear why this is so, but it may be because the data in the university patent search is not in sync with the live FPO database.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Boliven Acquired by CambridgeIP

Members of the Boliven Network were notified today via e-mail that the service has been acquired by CambridgeIP, a UK-based intellectual property research and strategy consulting firm. Details about the deal will be forthcoming.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Ghost of Patents Past

Have you ever noticed old patent numbers printed on new products? I own a pie dough blender that I bought new about 15 years ago. Etched on its blade are three US patent numbers, 1486255, 1645052 and 1724356.

A quick check in a patent database reveals that these were issued in 1924, 1927 and 1929, respectively. All three would have expired between 1941-1946, so what are the doing on a product manufactured almost fifty years later? As it turns out, marking products with expired or fake patent numbers is common.

Under U.S. law (35 U.S.C. 292) such false marking can result in a fine of up to $500. Historically, courts have limited damages in such cases to $500 per offense. This may change due to a recent ruling by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in the case of Forest Group, Inc. v Bon Tool Company. The CAFC ruling, if it stands, would apply the penalty to each falsely marked item, which could quickly add up to a significant sum. What's even more interesting is that the statute allows any person to bring suit and, if successful, receive 50 percent of the penalty.

So my little $2 dough blender might be worth a couple hundred dollars. Hmmm...
In fact, there might be a small fortune of falsely marked gadgets in my kitchen. Certainly enough to pay for a new HDTV.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Retrospective Kind Codes in Espacenet

The other day a colleague asked me why an "A" appeared at the end of older US patent numbers in espacenet records.

I immediately answered that it's a
document kind code: "A" is used for the first publication, "B" for the second and "C" for the third. However, something was odd about their presence in espacenet. The USPTO only started applying kind codes to patent documents in 2001, so why did they appear in older patents? Apparently, espacenet is retrospectively applying them to patent numbers.

This might be confusing to some searchers because the "A" kind code is generally associated with published applications, not issued patents, which are usually marked "B" or "C". However, some countries only recently started publishing applications. For example, the US in 2001 and Canada in 1990. In these cases, the issued patent was the first publication, hence the "A". From Jan. 1, 2001 forward, US patents are marked "B". Canadian patents were marked "A" prior to Oct. 1, 1989 and "C" afterward.