by Mike Masnick
Wed, Apr 2nd 2008 7:04pm
Back in November, a court blocked the Patent Office from phasing in new rules that would limit continuations on patents. The practice, which has been widely abused by some patent holders to expand the scope of an existing patent to cover newer technologies, has been a problem for quite some time. So, in an effort to shore things up, the USPTO decided on its own to limit how many continuations a patent holder could file on a single patent. The block in November was temporary, while the court reviewed the overall question of whether these new limits were legal -- and now the decision has been released saying that the USPTO has no right to make such changes. The decision actually does make sense. While excessive continuations can be a serious problem, the USPTO shouldn't be allowed to run off and make its own rules. The blanket limitation on continuations was (yet again) an attempt to deal with a symptom rather than take on the root causes of problems in the patent system. So, while it may have helped in the short term, it wouldn't have done much overall, and it's better not to have the USPTO randomly making up its own rules.
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