US Patent Office Grants Massively More Patents Than Ever Before
from the this-is-not-good dept
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has made it clear that he wanted to US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to clear out some of the backlog on patents, and it quickly became clear early last year that the way the USPTO was doing this was by simply approving more patents while giving less scrutiny to the patents in question — meaning that we’re now getting a ton of bad patents approved. It seemed like an obviously bad sign when we passed the total number of patents approved in 2009 by October of 2010.
Now the final numbers are in: nearly 220,000 patents granted (219,614 if you want to be exact), a massive 31% increase over 2009 and still significantly more than ever before in history. The highest previous year was 2006, when a mere 173,772 patents were granted. So this is still 27% more patents granted in a single year than ever before. I find it hard to believe — as USPTO supporters claim — that the Patent Office suddenly figured out how to approve 30% more patents without decreasing the quality. Patently-O put together this lovely chart to demonstrate the pattern:
If you look at the numbers over the past thirty years, you see that massive jump in 1998 and heading on up until 2003, when the Supreme Court finally realized that the patent system was massively out of control and was doing a lot more to harm innovation than to help it. However, over the last few years, in response to pressure from those who abuse the patent system to squeeze money out of others, it appears we haven’t just reverted to the way things were before, we’ve leapfrogged the trend line. I can think of no better way to massively slow down American innovation than this. What a shame. Kappos’ legacy is going to be a pretty sad one when all is said and done. It’s really too bad. When he was first put into the job, it appeared he actually understood how bad patents could be harmful.
And, it should be clear that it’s not just the small “trolls” that are the issue here. A ton of big companies stocked up on tons of new patents. Not surprisingly, the top patent getters are companies that are heavily involved in massive value-destroying patent thicket lawsuits: IBM, Samsung and Microsoft. Apple — which has gone all in on some patent battles — received nearly twice as many patents in 2010 as in 2009. Ditto with Qualcomm.
Oh yeah, and guess which area of technology had the highest number of new patents? “Multiplex Communications.” In other words, the mobile phone patent thicket of lawsuits we’ve discussed in the past is only going to get messier: