Feeds

US patent system braced for a shake-up

Still handing out daft patents, though

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

The US patent system is set for a thorough review, according to reports, with the aim of improving the quality of patents awarded, and thus reducing the number of patent lawsuits.

The New York Times says the Bush administration wants better information from applicants, and is considering opening patent applications to public scrutiny.

Both the Senate and the House have proposed legislating changes to the patent system this year as concerns mount over the quality of the system.

The review has been prompted by concerns that rather than encouraging innovation, the patent system has let in so many poor patents and become so clogged with litigation that it is now starting to hinder entrepreneurs.

(To illustrate just how so many poor quality patents might have been granted, consider this: in 2000, 72 per cent of all applications were approved. In the first quarter of 2007, after the USPTO hired 1,200 more patent examiners, this figure fell to 49 per cent).

In particular, it wants to shift much of the prior art research burden to the applicant and tighten up the legal requirements on the amount and quality of supporting information that must accompany an application.

Jon Dudas, director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, says applicants currently have a lot of discretion in how much information they provide to explain why their invention qualifies for patent protection.

At present, he says, applications are made with widely varying amounts of information, ranging from "almost nothing" to what he describes as "malicious compliance"; an overload of paperwork for patent examiners to sift through. He argues that applicants should have to do a thorough search of journals and related patents, and then justify the application in the context of decent background information.

Speaking of the higher bureaucratic hurdle applicants must now jump, Dudas says: "If everything is done right at the front end, we'll have to worry a lot less about litigation later."

Smaller, independent inventors should still be able to have the USPTO do this searching for them, he adds, noting that there is no desire to discourage or disadvantage smaller inventors.

Meanwhile, TechDirt reports that the same office has given its seal of approval to another strand of Amazon's infamous "one-click" patent. Although the original patent is up for re-examinationan, the USPTO has granted Amazon a patent on "a method and system for placing a purchase order via a communications network". This, readers will be delighted to hear, includes claims for following up an order by contacting the customer by phone or email. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
iOS 8 release: WebGL now runs everywhere. Hurrah for 3D graphics!
HTML 5's pretty neat ... when your browser supports it
Mathematica hits the Web
Wolfram embraces the cloud, promies private cloud cut of its number-cruncher
Mozilla shutters Labs, tells nobody it's been dead for five months
Staffer's blog reveals all as projects languish on GitHub
'People have forgotten just how late the first iPhone arrived ...'
Plus: 'Google's IDEALISM is an injudicious justification for inappropriate biz practices'
SUSE Linux owner Attachmate gobbled by Micro Focus for $2.3bn
Merger will lead to mainframe and COBOL powerhouse
iOS 8 Healthkit gets a bug SO Apple KILLS it. That's real healthcare!
Not fit for purpose on day of launch, says Cupertino
Netscape plugins about to stop working in Chrome for Mac
Google kills off 32-bit Chrome, only on Mac
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.