Patents On Common Beans Rejected 10 Years Too Late

from the nice-one,-USPTO dept

This one’s a bit old, but Boing Boing just pointed us to the incredible story of a guy named Larry Proctor who was able to get the USPTO to patent some yellow beans he picked up in Mexico. Yes. Really. You can read the patent (5,894,079) here. Thankfully, it was (finally) invalidated last year, but was around for about nine years — during which time the patent holder basically was able to put a tax on imports of such beans to the US from Mexico:

Yet Proctor actively enforced his patent. At one point, the patent-holder’s US$0.6-claim on every pound of yellow beans sold in the United States caused a steep decline in exports of such beans from Mexico to the USA, according to Mexican government sources.

The Boing Boing link points to the story of the USPTO rejecting the patent, but there actually is an update. Just a few weeks ago CAFC also ruled the patent as invalid, noting that Larry Proctor didn’t actually do anything special, other than plant some beans he’d picked up. But, none of that stopped 10 years of being able to tax or ban every shipment of these beans into the US. Even beyond the question of why it took 10 years to dump this patent, you have to wonder how a patent on a bean got approved in the first place. Another proud moment by the USPTO.

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Companies: uspto

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Comments on “Patents On Common Beans Rejected 10 Years Too Late”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Quiet you!

“I’m waiting on my approval for a patent on trees. Until it’s approved I don’t need you meddling and telling them what’s right and what’s wrong.”

Unfortunately you have to be more specific than that, and I already tried. I tried get my patent, aptly named “Green multi-armed aparatus for converting Oxegon from CO2 through photosynthesis”, but by the time the USPTO rep met with me, it was Fall and the leaves had changed colors. Obviously they rejected the patent as being described incorrectly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

all they need to do is make it so if your patent gets invalidated, you have to pay the USPTO $10k or 100% of revenues and judgments you took from the patent — whichever is larger. problem solved instantly.

I could see the USPTO declaring practically all patents invalid just to get the cash.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

no, because they also get a ton of money through filing and “maintenance” fees. if they declared all patents invalid, then no one would file, and they’d make nothing on filing or maintenance.

but seriously, i see no downside to this. very few would assert piss poor patents. the PTO would instantly solve its post-bilski/ksr budgetary problems weeding out bullshit patents. and more parties would enter [incredibly beneficial] non-monetary cross-licensing deals with each other.

pjhenry1216 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I’m fairly certain all patents currently in existence and in process will probably be grandfathered in and I’m sure lawyers would try and make sure renewals on those patents get grandfathered as well. So, we probably wouldn’t see the benefits from this for quite awhile if it did in fact ever get enacted.

ikonoclasm (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I support penalties for invalidated patents. I think there should also be compensation for the parties involved in invalidating the partner. We could see a cottage industry spring up with the sole purpose of invalidating crap patents! Give the companies that $10k or 100% of revenues for their valiant efforts protecting the state of the art of from unscrupulous IP idiots.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Again, is this was so hurting the market for yellow beans, why wasn’t someone raising a fuss? Why wasn’t someone complaining to their government to raise the issue? Why was nobody talking to the media?

I am thinking the farmers just all moved on to a much more profitable crop and called it a day. Corn is real good these days 😉

Lachlan Hunt (profile) says:

I have a patent application for a device, geometrically shaped such that the center is equidistant from any point on the edge and the center point can be mounted on a pivot point allowing for 360 degress of rotation, while the outer edge rolls along a surface I expect this can be used in a wide range of applications, particularly transport, and I’m sure it will revolutionise the whole industry.

reality check for Mike says:


“if you are going to talk smack, how about backing it up with cold hard info instead of baseless insults?”

Read the case from the court and take a look at the two patents. What Mike failed to mention was that the patent was invalidated by the USPTO in what is called a re-examination, and that during the re-examination a third party provided info that was not available to the examiner when the patent issued.

However, I am sure that neither you or Mike really know to much about patent law. Why bother, it makes generating your preconceived notions that much more fun.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Backatcha, I think that Mike’s point isn’t that the patent was eventually invalidated, but rather why was it passed in the first place and why did it take ten years to get rid of the patent?”

As I said, when it was passed the first time, the examiner did not have all the info that the people (i.e., USPTO during re-exam proceedings) did who invalidated it.

If Mike: 1) read the court case and the patent files; and 2) had any real knowledge about patent law, he could not have made the statements he made in his article.

But like I said, why bother to really know what your talking about when you know what conclusion you want to publish. All those pesky facts just get in the way. Again, great job, Mike. Keep up your agenda!

Fred McTaker (profile) says:

Reminds me...

That reminds me, I need to finish this patent for “cultivated growth pattern where the female of the species can be made to produce a narcotic beneficial for stress and hunger issues” before it gets legalized…

More seriously, I would support a penalty for invalidated patents — especially if additional penalties were applied directly to any lawyers and patent examiners involved as well. There would be an awesome and immediate “chilling effect” on lawyers taking up bad patent cases, and the examiners neglecting simple things like prior art and obviousness tests. In any case, shouldn’t invalid patents cost more to all involved with the application, than patents which provide real/provable innovations? They certainly create greater costs to society!

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