Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The 2012 Business Methods Partnership Meeting

USPTO hosted the 2012 Annual Business Methods Partnership Meeting at its Alexandria, VA headquarters on July 26th. This 13th meeting in the brought together IP attorneys, financial, research, internet, and technology organizations, analysts, and patent examiners to learn about recent developments in the world of business methods intellectual property from the USPTO’s perspective. The afternoon meeting opened with remarks by Greg Vidovich, Technology Center (TC) 3600 Director and by Teresa Rea, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO.

Mr. Vidovich followed with an update on operations within TC 3600 over the past year. Mr. Vidovich's portfolio in TC 3600 covers Transportation, Construction, Electronic Commerce, Agriculture inventions.

Filings for business methods appear to be on track to be comparable to those in 2011.

There are 315 examiners in TC3600 who handle business methods patents, not including those presently in training.

Allowance rates for business methods inventions seem to be up slightly this fiscal year, currently at about 26 percent (26%).

The pendency data he presented (through mid–2012) showed about 39 months pendency to issue or abandonment (vs 43 months in 2011), and about 19 months for pendency to first action (vs 27 months in 2011).

Vidovich made a couple of key operational points.

Business Methods Patents Can Be Found In Many Places

First not all "business method-type" claims are classified in Class 705. This class accepts only computer-implemented processes related to e-commerce, the internet and data processing involving finance, business practices, management or cost/price determination.
A number of other classes accept subject matter that is quite similar to the “business methods” formally found in class 705.

The number of patents and other classes where Business Methods patents are featured at Way Better Patents Business Methods Patent Snapshot.

Level the Subject Matter and More Outreach

The second important operational point was that in his new role as TC Director, a role he took over from Wynn Coggins, now Director of Tech Center 2800,  is that Patent Examiners are encouraged to look for a way to level the subject matter.  Basically come to agreement about what the invention is with the applicant.  Mr. Vidovich  is pushing examiners to be proactive and early in their outreach to applicants - he is a big fan of phone interviews between examiners and applicants and believes that more outreach will lead to higher quality patents, and potentially quicker final dispositions.  USPTO is seeking more ways to use video teleconferencing to make these exchanges more productive.

Next Up

The impact of the switch to the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) for business methods patents.  Since business methods patents aren't patentable in Europe, this represents a new subject matter for USPTO's European counterparts.  It also provides a good example of how the new classification impacts classification for examiners and the patent cognoscenti.