USPTO Announces Launch of Second Peer to Patent Pilot Program

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On October 19, 2010, the USPTO, in collaboration with the New York Law School’s Center for Patent Innovations, announced the upcoming launch of a second Peer to Patent pilot program.  Scheduled to commence next Monday, October 25, 2010, the Peer to Patent program expands upon the previous program. 

The original Peer to Patent program, which began in June 2007, introduced public participation to the patent examination process.  Inventors could opt to post their application on the website, whereupon volunteer technical and scientific experts could comment or submit relevant prior art.  Following the review period, the prior art is then sent to the USPTO for consideration during prosecution. 

The second Peer to Patent program expands upon the eligible subject matter of the earlier program, which was limited to software and business methods.  For the second Peer to Pilot program, eligible subject matter now includes biotechnology, bioinformatics, telecommunications and speech recognition.    

The Peer to Patent program seeks to reduce examination time and increase patent quality.  However, the success of this program is greatly limited by the low number of applications volunteered for review (only 189 applications were reviewed in the first pilot program from 2007-2009).  Whether expansion of the subject matter eligible for the Peer to Patent program increases its effectiveness remains to be seen.  But unless participation in the Peer to Patent program increases exponentially, it’s unlikely that this program will make any significant steps towards achieving its goals. 

USPTO Launches Websites To Discuss Patent And Trademark Procedures

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The USPTO recently introduced two websites where visitors can provide feedback on the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) and the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP).

“The objective is to ensure that the MPEP and TMEP are as accurate, complete and current as possible and enable practitioners and examiners to find information easily, and get accurate and complete guidance,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos. “This input from users will assist us to further improve these resources as well as our examining processes.” 

On both websites, users can comment and suggest ideas for specific chapters of the MPEP or TMEP. Other visitors can then vote on the suggestions which allow the best ideas to “bubble up” to the top.  Periodically, USPTO staff will post proposed new material for visitor feedback. 

It’s great to see the USPTO taking advantage of technology and social media for process improvement.  We hope the US community will partipate and perhaps we’ll see similar discussion sites pop up for other global patent offices, or WIPO itself.  

EPO and Google Partner Up on Patent Translations

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On November 30, 2010, the European Patent Office (EPO) and Google signed a Memorandum of Understanding to expand and improve upon translations of European patents.

Specifically, the EPO will use Google’s machine translation tool to translate European patents into the languages of the 38 EPO member countries.  In return, Google will receive access to the EPO’s database of patents.

Currently, EPO applications must be filed in one of the three official languages: English, German or French.  Following grant, the applicant must then get the patent claims or the entire specification (depending on the country) translated into the official language of each individual EPO member country in which it wishes to receive protection.  However, for those countries where protection is not sought, no translation is required.  As a result, many granted European patents rarely get translated into more than a handful of languages. 

This agreement between the EPO and Google will certainly benefit the public by increasing its accessibility to EPO patents.  Upon implementation, anyone will be able to search the 1.5 million patent documents in the EPO in any of the official languages of the 38 member states, not just the languages of the countries it was validated in. 

Although this agreement represents a big step for machine translations of patent documents, most agree that current technology still falls short of the accuracy of a human translator.  If you need assistance with (and/or an accurate estimate for) European patent validation or patent translation, please contact us.

Improvements At USPTO Come To A Crashing Halt

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Not even a month ago, I attended a talk by Director Kappos on the future of the USPTO and the many improvements he had in store for 2011.  Initiatives, such as the Three-Track Examination program designed to reduce the considerable backlog plaguing the USPTO, were extolled.  Dir. Kappos also discussed the hiring of new patent examiners and the opening of the first USPTO satellite office in Detroit, Michigan.  Dir. Kappos’ enthusiasm was infectious and many left the session optimistic about the future of the USPTO. 

All this momentum came to a crashing halt on April 15, 2011 after the FY 2011 budget, containing the USPTO’s appropriation through to September 30, 2011, was announced.   The Patent Office’s total budget for 2011 was limited to $2.09 billion, forcing it to make reductions to many of its planned activities.

In his April 22, 2011 Director’s Forum blog entry, Dir. Kappos announced the following: 

  • Track 1 of the Three-Track Examination program, scheduled to begin on May 4, 2011, is postponed; 
  • Opening of the Detroit satellite office is postponed, and the hiring of new Examiners is frozen; 
  • IT projects would be scaled back;
  • Funding for Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) outsourcing would be substantially reduced;
  • Employee training would be reduced; and
  • All overtime is suspended.

Talk about a major downer.  Seems rather hypocritical hearing politicians tout innovation as a major factor for turning America’s economy around, but then taking away the funding needed to accomplish just that.  If there’s ever been a time to allow the USPTO to keep its own fees, that time is now!

WIPO Launches IP Advantage Database

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Following the recent launch of WIPO Lex, WIPO announces the launch of IP Advantage

IP Advantage is an online database compiling the IP experiences of inventors, researchers, entrepreneurs and corporations. Developed by WIPO’s Communications Division and the WIPO Japan Office, IP Advantage seeks to “promote a better understanding of how IP is created and protected, and how inventors, creators and society at large benefit from the IP system.”

Visitors can focus their inquiry based on object of protection, instrument of protection, focus, global challenges, organization type, industry and country/territory. Additionally, IP Advantage also offers a keyword search of its database.  Based on the selected criteria, IP Advantage then directs the visitor to the relevant articles and case studies. 

It’s great to see WIPO making these technology strides to promote the IP system and educate the interested public.

WIPO Launches WIPO Lex

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September 20, 2010 marked WIPO’s launch of WIPO Lex, a comprehensive online global IP reference resource which provides up-to-date information on national IP laws and treaties.  WIPO Lex compiles IP data for over 60 countries with substantial coverage for an additional 100 legal systems.  It further features analysis and interpretations of these laws and treaties. 

WIPO Lex will be integrated into the WIPO Gold system, which was launched earlier this year.  WIPO Gold provides online access to a broad collection of searchable IP data and resources.

WIPO Lex illustrates yet another way that technology is improving the IP industry.  Speaking of technology, have you checked out inovia’s new client portal, offering one-click estimates for PCT national phase entry and European patent validation?