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