Tuesday, December 31, 2013

U.S. Patent Statistics and Numbers for 2013

The USPTO issued 305,081 patents in 2013, an increase of 10.2 percent over 2012. The agency also published 347,148 utility and plant patent applications, an increase of 4.7 percent over the previous year. The total number of U.S. patent documents published in 2013 increased to 752,229, another all-time high. Table 1 shows the number of documents by type.

Table 1. US Patents by Type Issued in 2013*

Utility patents279,899
Reissue patents844
Design patents23,479
Plant patents846

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 Totals may change after the fact due to withdrawn patents and published applications. 

On August 6, the USPTO reached another milestone, issuing patent no. 8,500,000. Design patents are rapidly approaching the 700,000 mark; it is likely that D700,000 will be issued in February 2014. 

The USPTO abolished the Statutory Invention Registration (SIR) Program in March. The number of SIRs published during the 28 years the program was in existence was approximately 2,260. The number of SIRs per year has steadily decreased since the USPTO began publishing applications in 2001. Only 13 SIRs were published this year, almost twice as many as in 2012. 

Table 2. US Patent Number Ranges, Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2013

TypeFirst NumberLast Number
Utility patent8,341,7628,621,661
Reissue patentRE43,844RE44,688
Design patentD673,356D696,835
Plant patentPP23,288PP24,134
Utility application2013/00000012013/347149
Plant application2013/00079302013/347159

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Tangle toy puzzle

A few days ago I took my four-year old daughter to get a flu shot. As a reward for being brave and not crying (too much) the nurse gave her a puzzle-toy called a Tangle(R). Turns out it was patented in 1985 (US 4509929) by Richard Zawitz. There are several interesting things about this toy. First, it has one of the least descriptive patent titles I've seen since the Koosh ball: "Annular support device with pivotal segments". Second, prior to filing a patent application, Zawitz filed several copyright registrations under the title "Zawitz tangle ornamental sculpture". Finally, in 1993 Zawitz was granted a design patent (D334,416) on the individual segments that make up the toy.

Humble Egg Carton Invented by Canadian 100 Years Ago

Canadian newspaperman Joseph Coyle invented the humble egg carton nearly one hundred years ago. Coyle was not the first inventor to tackle the problem of transporting eggs safely, but his carton design, which he patented in the US (US1269394) and Canada (CA181662) in 1918, was one of the most successful. A number of egg carton designs were patented from the late 1890s forward. These are classified under CPC code B65D85/32+.

Coyle continued inventing well into his 70s and received more than a dozen patents relating to egg cartons, among other things. In 1943, he received his last patent (CA415836) for a carton suitable for holding and transporting fruit.

The iconic 12-egg carton that is still in use today was designed in the 1930s by Francis H. Sherman, who received design patent D95,291 in 1935.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

PatentScope Adds Canadian National Collection

An early Christmas present from the WIPO:

PatentScope now includes the Canadian national collection from ~1920 forward. No PDFs yet, it appears, but full text (based on OCR) is available for some patents. A few pre-1970s patents have IPC codes, so keyword searching may be required for some types of searches. This gives researchers another option for searching Canadian patents from the early 20th century forward.

Other national collections to be added in the next few months include the Eurasian Patent Office, Germany, and UK.

Monday, August 26, 2013

USPTO Adopts PDF for Patent Documents

The USPTO has adopted PDF as the default format for displaying patent documents from its databases, making it one of the last (if not last) of the major patent offices to switch to the world's most popular document image format. Since 1998, viewing US patent documents obtained from the USPTO website required the use of a TIFF plugin such as alternaTIFF or interneTIFF.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

US Patent Milestone: 8,500,000

The USPTO reached another milestone on August 6, issuing patent no. 8,500,000 B2 to Elmer Berendas of Germany for a "Device for locking and unlocking the jalousie (rolling shutter) of a container."According to the patent, this type of container is commonly used in ATMs.

So far this year the USPTO has issued 173,546 utility patents, putting on track to issue more than 260,000 this year. At that rate the next milestone, patent no. 9,000,000, could be reached by early 2015.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Obit: Amar G. Bose (1929-2013), Bose

Amar G. Bose, inventor of the audio system that bears his name, passed away on July 12 at the age of 84. In addition to being a successful inventor and entrepreneur, Bose taught acoustics and electrical engineering for 45 years at MIT. Bose received approximately 45 patents during his lifetime. His earliest patent, US2915588, was for a pressure wave (sonic wave) generation system. His most recent application, US2012177215A1, filed in 2011, discloses a transducer with an integrated sensor. The Bose Corp., whose motto is "Better Sound Through Research", holds more than 1,900 patents and pending applications.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

USPTO Launches Global Patent Search Network

The USPTO has launched a new patent search system called the Global Patent Search Network (GPSN). Initial coverage includes Chinese published applications, patents, utility models from 2008 through 2011. Users can search patent documents in the English or Chinese language and retrieve full-text Chinese patents and machine translations.Additional Chinese patents and other national collections will be added over time.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Roswell-Inspired Inventions

UFO enthusiasts and true believers are celebrating the 66th anniversary of the Roswell Incident, the alleged crash of an extraterrestrial spacecraft outside the small town of Roswell, New Mexico in July 1947. The event marked the start of a wave of flying saucer sightings around the world. Inventors were quick to capitalize on the public's mania for all things alien, filing numerous patent applications for everything from saucer-shaped salt and pepper shakers (USD161683) to advanced aircraft designs like the one above (US2718364). There's even a CPC patent classification for flying saucers, B64C39/001. UFO hunters looking for evidence of alien technology in the patent record won't find much. Aliens, it seems, prefer trade secrets.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Obit: Inventor of Computer Mouse, Douglas C. Engelbart

Douglas C. Engelbart, the inventor of the computer mouse, died this week at the age of 88. He patented his simple but highly innovative invention, called an "X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System", in 1970. (US 3541541) Engelbart's invention helped launch the age of the personal computer. Millions of mice are produced each year. Engelbart's mouse patent has been cited in 137 patents. The CPC classification for computer mice is G06F3/03543.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Statutory Invention Registration Abolished

On March 16, 2013, the Statutory Invention Registration was abolished under the provisions of the America Invents Act. The purpose of the SIR was to allow an inventor who did not wish to get a patent to disclose their invention in a published document, thus preventing others from patenting it. The USPTO has published approximately 2,500 SIRs since the program was established in the mid-1980s as a replacement for the Defensive Publication Program. The number of SIRs per year has steadily decreased since the USPTO began publishing applications in 2001. Only seven were published in 2012.

Patent Milestone in August?

The USPTO is on track to issue patent no. 8,500,000 later this summer. At the current rate of about five thousand new patents each week, no. 8,500,000 should appear sometime in August. Patent no. 8,000,000 was issued on August 16, 2011, just two years ago. It took over 100 years, from 1790 to 1911, for the U.S. to issue its millionth patent. Since that time, the interval has been steadily decreasing. At the current rate patent no. 9,000,000 will issue in 2015.

U.S. Patent Milestones

Year No. Interval
2011 8,000,000 5 years
2006   7,000,000 7
1999 6,000,000 8
1991 5,000,000 15
1976 4,000,000 15
1961 3,000,000 26
1935 2,000,000 24
1911 1,000,000 121

Monday, January 28, 2013

US Patent Statistics for 2012

The USPTO issued 276,820 patents and published 331,583 applications in calendar year 2012, 7 percent more than in 2011 and an all-time high of 608,403 patent documents.Table 1 shows the number of documents by type.

No milestones were reached in 2012, but in 2013 it's virtually guaranteed that the USPTO will issue patent no. 8,500,000. And design patents are rapidly approaching the 700,000 mark.

Table 1. US Patents by Type Issued in 2012*

Utility patents253,178
Reissue patents822
Design patents21,952
Plant patents860

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

Table 2. US Patent Number Ranges, Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2012
TypeFirst NumberLast Number
Utility patent8,087,0948,341,760
Reissue patentRE43,053RE43,883
Design patentD651,376D673,345
Plant patentPP22,428PP23,287
Utility application2012/00000012012/321207
Plant application2012/00057942012/331605

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Jury Awards Carnegie Mellon University $1.16 Billion in Patent Lawsuit

A jury has awarded Carnegie Mellon University more than $1.16 billion in a patent infringement lawsuit against a tech firm based in Santa Clara, California. An appeal is expected, but if the verdict stands this could be the largest patent infringement award in U.S. history.