Patent Office Releases Rules To Let Third Parties Provide Documents To Help Reject Patent Applications

from the could-be-useful dept

One of the big problems with the patent system is that it’s not an adversarial process at all. You only have advocates for why a patent should be granted. No one is on the other side arguing why it shouldn’t be. The examiner is supposed to be neutral, but actually has some implicit incentives to find things more patentable than not. For example, patent examiners are often reviewed on their productivity in getting through patent applications. Considering the backlog of patents, this isn’t a surprise. But since there’s no such thing as a true “final rejection” of a patent, the inventor and their lawyers can keep coming back, asking the patent office to try again. But each time the examiner has to go back and review the same application all over again, that’s time away from a new application, and thus hurts his or her “productivity.”

Making matters worse, once a patent is granted, it has to be presumed valid under the law. Meaning that even though it has never actually been tested in an adversarial process, the courts simply assume it’s a valid patent. The fact that when patents do get re-examined, somewhere around three quarters of them have to be adjusted, with previously approved claims rejected, certainly calls into question just how “valid” those patents are. One of the small changes in the patent reform bill that past last year, the America Invents Act (AIA), was that it will now be slightly easier to file documents with the Patent Office for a patent application under consideration, rather than waiting until after the patent is granted.

This is definitely a step in the right direction, though, I do wonder how widely it will be used. Part of the problem is that it’s often not at all possible to tell what a patent actually impacts until after its granted and the holder sues or threatens to sue. And no one can watch every application to see if they might have some useful prior art or evidence of obviousness. Either way, the rules for such third party submissions go into effect September 16th, and the USPTO is releasing its official rules for how the process will work (pdf and embedded below). There is a fee involved — $180 — but it’s exempted for your first submission on a particular patent application if that submission is less than three documents. That may be a bit limiting, but it does suggest that individuals with clear prior art or proof of obviousness might at least be able to weigh in a bit to convince the examiner that an application is totally bogus.

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Comments on “Patent Office Releases Rules To Let Third Parties Provide Documents To Help Reject Patent Applications”

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27 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“but it’s exempted for your first submission on a particular patent application if that submission is less than three documents.”

It’s only exempt for the first submission, so what happens when a big business with huge patent portfolios uses multiple patents to attack a small business?

abc gum says:

Re: Re:

Before reading the “rules” or even the comments here, I knew there would be a fee (maniacal laugh). So when will the USPTO be moving into their Evil Volcanic Lair?

Since there is such a large patent application backlog, perhaps robots could be of assistance.

SEND IN THE PATENTBOTS !!!!!!

I like to see examiners of that caliber.
By “caliber,” of course, I refer to both the size of their rubber stamps and the high quality of their characters.

Ooo, Behave

sheenyglass (profile) says:

Re: Productivity

A friend of mine is a patent examiner and, when describing why he liked the job far more than his life as a patent attorney, he told me that it was because he had a set number of actions he needed to take to meet his productivity requirements, so an office action or a denial counts towards productivity too. Now, given the potential for me misunderstanding his statement, this should be taken a with a grain of salt, but it seems like this is the case.

Of course, even if this is true there may be ways in which approving patents can be more “productive.” For example, if an office action in which you respond to an attorney’s arguments gets you the same credit as approving a patent application, but takes more effort, then there could still be an incentive to grant rather than deny.

Pixelation says:

New business

“Part of the problem is that it’s often not at all possible to tell what a patent actually impacts until after its granted and the holder sues”

Sounds like there is a business opportunity in here somewhere. Perhaps create a company that monitors patent filings and alerts you to anything that will affect your business. For a fee, research prior art.

Name it, IP or Intellectual Patenticide.

Mika Leonikskawadter says:

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1.COACHING CHANGE Meta-Coaching Volume,2005 by L. Michael Hall, Ph.D. and Michelle Duval

2.COACHING CONVERSATIONS
Meta-Coaching Volume II, 2004 by L. Michael Hall, Ph.D. and Michelle Duval

3.UNLEASHED:A Guide to Your Ultimate Self-Actualization (2007) by L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

4. SELF-ACTUALIZATION PSYCHOLOGY
The Psychology of the Bright Side of Human Nature. by L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

5.ACHIEVING PEAK PERFORMANCE: The Science and Art of Higher Levels of Performance
by L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

6. UNLEASHING LEADERSHIP: Self-Actualizing Leaders and Companies (2009)
by L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

7.THE CRUCIBLE: And the Fires of Change (2010) L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

8.Benchmarking Intangibles :The Art of Measuring Quality By L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

staff says:

more dissembling by Masnick

Sadly, corruption is rampant in Congress. Many members have become paid puppets of large infringers. They have been hoodwinked, or simply sold their votes to the highest bidder. That extends to the PTO’s upper management.

If you’re tired of nonsensical dissembling by invention thieves and their paid puppets (some say Masnick is one of many), you can find some levity and sanity from those who have actually invented something and have personal experience in these matters at…

http://truereform.piausa.org/default.html#menu

staff says:

more dissembling by Masnick

Sadly, corruption is rampant in Congress. Many members have become paid puppets of large infringers. They have been hoodwinked, or simply sold their votes to the highest bidder. That extends to the PTO’s upper management.

If you’re tired of nonsensical dissembling by invention thieves and their paid puppets (some say Masnick is one of many), you can find some levity and sanity from those who have actually invented something and have personal experience in these matters at…

http://truereform.piausa.org/default.html#menu

abc gum says:

Re: more dissembling by Masnick

Posting it twice did not improve its readability.

“corruption is rampant in Congress”
Statement of fact.

“Many members have become paid puppets of large infringers.”
If all corporations infringe, does this imply the law should be reviewed? Perhaps it is the law which is out of step with reality.

Invention thieves … lol, good one.
Oh wait, your’re serious – lol.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

While an ex parte process as to which the high “Duty of Candor” standard applies, I have never thought of an examiner as being a neutral third party. Yes, file a few cases and this becomes only too clear. Unfortunately, many who seem to believe otherwise have never engaged at any stage in prosecution, nor are they admitted to practice before the office. It is easy to be a critic when you do not have substantive information at hand.

Lord Binky says:

I’d subscribe for like $5 month to a service that informed me of craptastic patents for me to shoot down. The first filing is free for each person per patent right(when it’s under 3 pages)? I’m sure those patent reviews are going to love 1000 3 page papers coming in… I bet they’ll be begging for their productivity to be measured differently real soon.

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