Since an estimated 2 billion people will watch Prince William marry Kate Middleton tomorrow, I thought a royal wedding themed patent story was in order.
Flowers play a prominent role in weddings, so I searched for plant patents named for members of the royal family. Sure enough, in 1987, Thomas Watson of Wisconsin received three plant patents for varieties of Amelanchier, a shrub, which he named in honor of Prince Charles (PP6,039), Princess Diana (PP6,041) and Prince William (PP6,040).
Lowell Hoy of Indiana patented a new variety of rose named "Lady Diana" (PP5,360) in 1983.
And in 1999, Robin Marks of Aylesbury, UK filed a plant patent application (2001/0100101) for a dahlia variety named Diana, Princess of Wales.
There are no plant patents named in honor of Kate Middleton, but I suspect that we'll be seeing some soon.
In the first quarter of 2011 the USPTO issued 62,132 patents, an increase of 1.7 percent from the previous quarter and 11.9 percent from the same period last year. The number of published applications declined by 4 percent from the previous quarter and was essentially unchanged from a year ago.
The USPTO is fast approaching its 8 millionth utility patent, which is likely to be issued in the second half of the year, probably in August. Patent 7,000,000, for a new type of polysaccharide fiber, was issued five years ago on February 14, 2006 to Dupont.
Patent No. 6,000,000 was granted on December 7, 1999 to inventors Jeff Hawkins and Michael Albanese. Their invention was a system for synchronizing files on two computers, the core technology of the Palm Pilot PDA, the first commercially successful hand-held electronic organizer. Palm was purchased by H-P for about $1.2 billion in 2010.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the first published patent application on March 15, 2001. Since that date the USPTO has published approximately 2,706,056 utility and plant patent applications. Published applications now account for about 30 percent of all U.S. patent documents.
Table 1. Quarterly Patent Document Counts*
2011 ..... Patents (B) ..... PGPubs (A) ..... Total (A + B) Q1 ..... 62,132 ..... 78,481 ..... 140,613
*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 Totals may change after the fact due to withdrawn patents and published applications.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, Jan. 1 through Mar. 31, 2011
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.