State of Innovation

Patents and Innovation Economics

Patents – Good News

Gary Locke, the U.S. Commerce Secretary, in an article in Journal Sentinel stated that the time it takes to issue patents is unacceptable.  The article also points out the problem of patent office policy forcing examiners to reject applications at unprecedented rate.  Secretary Locke also acknowledged that these problems have hurt the American economy.  This is great news for inventors.

The only potentially bad news in the article is the statement that the patent office faces severe financial problems.  This may mean higher fees in the future.  Please read the full article at


August 25, 2009 Posted by | -How to, -Prosecution, Patents | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Understanding Patent Novelty (35 USC 102) for Inventors

In order to obtain a patent your invention has to be useful (35 USC 101), novel (35 USC 102), and non-obvious (35 USC 103).  The goal of this post is to explain the novelty requirement in terms that are clear to engineers and scientists. Continue reading

August 4, 2009 Posted by | -Law, -Philosophy, -Prosecution, Patents | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Three Steps to Reduce Patent Pendency Times

President Obama has prioritized reducing patent application pendency times.  What are your top three suggestions to achieve this goal?  Here are my mine.

One: Change the way examiners are evaluated.  According to my understanding, productivity count or points are a major part of an examiner’s performance review.  The examiner gains points for reviewing a new case, when an applicant files a RCE (Request for Continued Examination) and if the case is allowed or abandoned, among other activities.  This system encourages “churning” where an examiner will force the applicant to file a RCE in order to obtain an allowance to increase their points. Continue reading

July 10, 2009 Posted by | -Philosophy, -Prosecution, Patents | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Patent Examiner on Why Allowance Rate is so Low

This comment was posted by an Patent Examiner at Patent Prospector.  The Examiner explains why he thinks the allowance rates are so low and his explanation is consistent with my post, Patent Allowance Rate Falls to 42%.


I believe that the allowance rate is artificially low, although not due to churning…at least not exactly.

I am a current examiner. Under Dudas, the PTO pursued a policy of “increased patent quality”. The way that the PTO enforced this quality initiative was by reviewing office actions. Not reviewing all office actions, mind you, but only reviewing allowances.

Unfortunately, the PTO failed to see the problem that they were setting up. An examiner is then left with two choices:

1) An examiner could generate rejections without ever incurring quality review, or
2) An examiner could generate an allowance that would be scrutinized by quality review and possibly find themselves assessed a quality review error.

So, it has been safer for an examiner to always reject…at least until very recently. There has been some loosening of the allowance quality review rules in recent weeks as it appears that “reduced pendency” is the new key motivation under Obama.

July 6, 2009 Posted by | -How to, -Law, -Prosecution, Patents | 4 Comments