Tuesday, May 19, 2015

CPC's Happy Flat Line

This week we say goodbye to the Weekly CPC Monitor where we watched the progress of the transition of newly granted patents containing CPC data.  As you can see on the graph above, the CPC line is moving along in a nice horizontal fashion indicating that things are going well.  Since USPTO hit 100% in April and has been consistently hitting this mark of all new patent grants containing CPC data the transition appears complete.  A happy flat line across the top.

We also note that the backlog of unprocessed patent applications has dropped below 600,000 to 585,811 in April with pendency to first office action also declining.  Now that this complex transition is underway and has been integrated into the examination processes, USPTO can return to its efforts to reduce the backlog as spelled out in their Strategic Plan.

Next up, the June 2 transition of the Official Patent Gazette and other supporting data shifting from using the USPC for worklfow and work management purposes to using the CPC.  This is a really big change for external users and eventually for inventors and assignees applying for new patents.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Corrections Conundrum

8,800 And Counting...

Corrections total 8,800 year–to–date. USPTO added another 623 new corrections this week. So we're up to 8,800 corrections this year that the Average Citizen wouldn't know to look for when using the patent search tools available to the public.

No one bothers to correct patents that are abandoned or aren't perceived as having value.  Why waste your time.

Most of the corrections are on patents that are not new, have paid maintenance fees, and are in interesting scientific and technical domains where new innovation are emerging. Corrections are an indicator that patents are in play.  We did a quick analysis of corrections in August.  This review revealed that patents related to internet connected vehicle control systems were having every i dotted and every t crossed.  When you look carefully, the corrections point to a portfolio building effort and clean-up action before a monetization effort we suspect.

But here's the rub.  The corrections are an undercover action generally unknown to most people who aren't patentistas.  All the corrections of colons and semi-colons is lovely but it's the one where the change says that dependent claim 17 really should be pointing to claim 5 and not claim 1, fundamentally changing the public presentation of what the invention was all about. That are troubling.  These changes are only available in non-text accessible old school image format with only some of the pages in the USPTO full-text database pointing the user to images. This stuff is torture.

Especially when you consider the logic which goes like this:

1) Patent owner sends in a digital form requesting the change.
2) It floats all around USPTO to get approved.
3) USPTO types up the change language and have the Director sign it (our guess is this is done with the magic automated pen but maybe not which would be even more ridiculous.)
4) Then someone at USPTO creates an image of the change and adds it to the image version of the patent.

Something's gotta give here.

Check out this week's Box Scores here.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Quality Matters

(Image via Businesstown in Instagram)

There is a saying in the technology sales world that, "Sales solves all problems."  Basically what the means is that when you have a real customer paying real money for your product, that you stop focusing on tangential things and start focusing on what you need to make that sale and that customer a success. Patent quality does the same thing in the world of IP.  Quality patents solve all problems. 

Everyday I am bombarded by emails on the need to fix the patent system. A relentless stream of articles many by people who don't know how important patents are in our innovation economy or who haven't had someone abscond with the fruits of their labor, yet. 

At the recent BIOTECHNOLOGY Partnership meeting at USPTO Robert Stoll, former Commissioner for Patents at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, opined on the subject. As usual he crystallized the patent quality impact in a few sentences. (Paraphrased from my notes.)

"First, licensing patents is a legitimate enterprise. Why are we spending so much time on this legitimate activity?"

"Quality patents removed uncertainty and mutes the arguments in patent trolls."

Quality patents clearly disclose what the patent covers, the boundaries of the ownership of the patented invention and who has an interest in it.  Consider the U.S. Navy. The IP tech transfer folks routinely is the field for the government interest statement to publish the contact information on how to reach then if you'd like a license. Bravo Zulu to them. 

Better claim construction, better glossaries, better bibliographic and geographic data, and perhaps most important quality ownership and real party in interest data are game changers. 

Patent quality is a two way street.  USPTO needs the resources and support to make patent quality improvements a reality beyond public outreach with everyone nodding in unison that quality is an important issue. USPTO needs more folks to support their efforts to improve quality if there is any hope of fixing the patent system and letting the patent prognosticators move on to a new topic.  

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Iced Tea & Patent Reality Checks

A Little Patent Fakery - Patent Tribute Art?
Iced tea season begins in earnest  at Way Better Patents.  We look forward to many cold and frosty beverages in our favorite improvised entertainment device, the Mason Jar.

The iconic Mason Jar was designed by John L. Mason from New York.  The patent wasn't for the jar it was for the easy on/easy off screw top lid (which many of us have been cursing since 1858.)

According to the website Glass Bottle Marks, "John Landis Mason was awarded Patent #22186, issued on November 30, 1858 by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (actually the patent was termed an “Improvement in screw-neck bottles”),  for his invention concerning the process of creating a threaded screw-type closure on bottles and jars."   You can see images of the real jar here.

So we went on the hunt for the patent images and came across this.  It was a beautiful but very curious drawing.  It looked a bit too mid-century modern for us, mid 20th Century.  Could Mr. Mason have submitted such a complex drawing for a jar with a screw top. Hmmmmmmmm.

Patent Intrigue...

After looking at the image complete with the fold marks in light of the drawing style and the very detailed screw top we suspected a little patents as graphic design rather than real patent design.  The curved lettering on the "jars" in the image are inconsistent with glass making technology of the day.

Here is the image of Mr. Mason's 1858 patent from the USPTO website:

A little more normal drawing for the timeframe.

The wonders of cut and paste and Photoshop or the graphic design package of your choice you were used to edit the original patent document, use and rearrange the handwritten material  on the page to wrap around some tasteful but chronologically inaccurate new images of the iconic jar.

The other interesting tell is that the US Patent and Trademark Office awarded Mr. Mason a utility patent for the screw top lid (he was a tin worker) not a design.

Then there is the Ball logo.

West Saint Paul Antiques reports that, "Shortly after their move to Muncie and new plant startup in 1888, Ball was making Mason's Patent Nov. 30th 1858 jars, many from acquired moulds. …About 1892 and probably even earlier, Ball began adding their name to some of the 1858 type jars, some on front and others on the back in all block letters. …About 1895, Ball began using machines (these jars have smooth lips) and began to phase out the old blowing methods. This transition took several years. The machine made jars exhibited a new script style which was never seen on any of their handmade jars."

Ball did not start making jars with script style lettering until 1895.

You can see the history of Ball logos here.

And then there's the matter of the jars being square?  Not in 1858.

The other interesting aspects of the drawing - the fold marks, what looks like text bleeding through the back of the page are also some nice touches.

So what we have here is the work of a graphic artist not the actual patent document for Mr. Mason's invention.  And maybe a little trademark infringement as well.

Original Patent Document?  Nope.

Here is the brief text of Mr. Mason's original 1858 patent:

Text of the original patent granted to John L. Mason

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Use The Wrench

A Wrench for Resources and Tools

Way Better Patents publishes a wide range of useful tools to help you understand what's going on in the patent world.  These tools and resources include glossaries, USPTO terms of art, an article about how we read a patent when we're trying to figure out what it's all about, explanations of what's in our data and what's in our maps.  There are charts,tables, and cheat sheets explaining all those numbers on patents, things like kind codes, application serial numbers, a list of all the patent numbers issued by type each year.  

There are articles on IP basics and the differences between different types of IP and patents.  how patent classification works and the changes being made as USPTO shifts to the CPC.  There are explanations of USPTO organizes patents and the basics about patents and the different scientific and technical domains.  

There's a section on words that includes the Way Better Patents intellectual property and innovation reading list and some of our favorite quotes on innovators and inventors, and our Thought Leadership list -- academic and research articles that we thought were interesting and compelling with interesting points of view and discussions on important science and technology issues. (We also include articles we think are ridiculous so you can decide for yourself.)

"If I had listened to my customers, I would have built a faster horse."
Henry Ford

The Wrench can point you to articles on business methods patents, taxpayer funded inventions and the Bayh-Dole act.  There is an in depth Discovery and Analysis study of the USPTO Green Technology Pilot Program and the patents granted under that program so you can make your own decision on whether accelerated examination accelerates innovation.  (Did you know that GE received a patent for a bolt under the Green Tech Pilot Program because it was economically important.  It helped them build wind turbines faster.  No kidding.)  We also included links to all of our patentECO Green Technology resources.

There are also links to a host of articles on a wide range of topics on patent, invention, innovators, and the organizations that own patents.  We keep a running list of patent advocates (and foes) and what they are lobbying for.  

And of course there are the usual Digests, Maps, Scientific Presence Profiles, Box Scores and Score cards too.

So Click the Wrench icon to find Way Better Patent Resources and Tools to help you understand what's happening in the patentsphere.  It's at the top of most of our pages.  

The wrench may be tiny tool but it's a really powerful way to find resources at Way Better Patents.

Friday, April 17, 2015

What To Read Next

Lately the folks at Way Better Patents been reading a lot about precision medicine and the emerging worlds of molecular medicine, synthetic biology and biotech start-ups.  It's an outgrowth of watching the patent world try to figure out how it will deal with the very specific aspects of developing drugs for people that have a specific genomic profile. Not for the faint of heart or anyone who isn't good at complex thinking.  The level of scientific complexity in precision medicine on top of the intricate dance of protecting and enforcing intellectual property in the pharmaceutical industry will make for a very interesting patent landscape for years to come.  So we embarked upon an effort to get smart.

Our latest read is all about how Vertex Pharmaceuticals brought two important drugs to market.

The Antidote: Inside the World of New Pharma by Barry Werth — How the rugged world of drug innovation really works.

Why Read It?

This choice is timely for a lot of reasons.

It's easy to read despite the deep science and complicated processes it reveals.  Lots of interesting scientists and innovators here.

USPTO is faced with many challenges on what exactly is patentable in the microbiology, molecular medicine, chemistry space.  Is the invention a product of nature or not?  How will patent examiners deal with the avalanche of data that goes along with a new pharma patent application?  At our latest visit to USPTO’s Biotech Partnership it took over an hour and 57 slides just to explain how to upload a sequence listing and another mind exploding 45 minutes and two presenters just to explain how patent term extension works for drug patents.  (We'll be posting both shortly...stay tuned.)  There is a lot going on here.  

There are molecular medicine patents coming from very unusual places as the latest from the Colorado School of Mines shows.  We ignored Captain Renault's advice to "round up the usual suspects" and found 8,968,705 an invention in the nanomedicine space from The Colorado School of Mines (Mines) — gold/lanthanide nanoparticles for use in targeting, treating, and/or imaging disease states in a patient. You read that correctly, The Colorado School of Mines, the folks who focus on Earth, Energy, Environment. The university focused on engineering and applied science in the geoscience arena adds a new contribution to the spectrum of inventions in the nanomedicine space.

The economics of big pharma are in the midst of dramatic change as biotech delivers more customized medicines that address smaller populations of users. This dramatically changes the economics of healthcare.  The complex issues are unfolding before our eyes as people questions what they see as the exorbitant price for SOVALDI® (sofosbuvir) in treating Hepatitic C (it’s cheaper than a liver transplant) or KALYDECO® (ivacaftor) developed to treat cystic fibrosis.  Both drugs and diseases play starring roles in this book.

Back to the patentsphere for a moment.

There is lots of rumblings over the latest business ventures of Erich  Spangenberg in the pharma space. Mr. Spangenberg is working with Kyle Bass, an activist investor, to use the inter partes review process at USPTO to challenge and invalidate pharma patents.  Basically the play is to file an inter partes review to invalidate a patent, short the stock, and wait for the money to roll in.  There are a host of other shareholder fiduciary and due diligence issues here and board room plot twists galore.  What will be interesting here is that the pharma, biotech, chemistry IP crowd tend to play the patent game at a much higher level than our favorite business methods patent monetization letter writers. No going after the easy stuff like healthcare related business methods patents here. And, this is a passion play on what happens when you tinker with the patent system.  Most of the patentistas never envisioned the inter partes review process being used in the way Mr. Spangenberg and others are now using it.  Lots of intrigue.  Understanding the nuances of how a new molecular drug gets to market and the business of making that happen will help you be more informed when watching this latest patent monetization drama unfolds.  

Add the announcement from IBM, Apple, Medtronic and Johnson & Johnson on their new healthcare offering designed to change the information landscape of medicine and pharmaceutical design.  We’re fans of translational R&D. This partnership and others evolving in the space are clearly an important way to use information to move innovation from the bench to the bedside and back to the bench faster.

And then there are all the discussions on fixing the patent system, the Innovation Act, patent cliffs and the fate of big pharma, shorter patent terms for drugs and a host of other issues.  

Check out the Way Better Patents Reading List.  Read this one and Peter Huber’s The Cure Is In the Code and you’ll have a whole new perspective on pharma innovation and intellectual property. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Innovation Business Intelligence

Patents and published patent applications are one of the only publicly available sources of concise scientific information on the output of research and development, the potential use of the inventions, and new product design features. 

If you want to have a deep understanding of the direction of science, technology, and engineering, read patents.  If you don't want to read all of the arcane patent, try the way we read patents to see what they are about.  You don't have to read all of the details to understand the essence of a new invention and where it fits into the world of innovation.  

Each week we publish weekly state-by-state digests about all of the new patents granted that week, the inventors responsible for them...all of the inventors not just the first named inventor on a patent.  This will help you know when local companies and inventors are granted patents. It will help you know which companies are local and which companies are around the company that are working with local inventors.  

So what do you do with this information?  Find investment and partnership opportunities. Know what is happening in your technology parks. Understand the science and technology behind new university spin-outs and start-ups. Work with companies building new products to focus on new STEM job creation and enhance workforce development. Use the Coming Soon™ navigation map to see what's happening and reach out, recruit, retain, and grow.

If you want to know what innovation is coming soon....read patents.  It's not as bad as you think.