Obama Calls The Patent Office Embarrassing For Its Outdated Workflow

from the if-only-they'd-patented-a-smarter-workflow-system dept

Ezra Gildesgame wrote in to let us know that President Obama called the Patent Office "embarrassing" for its archaic workflow process:
"Believe it or not, in our patent office -- now, this is embarrassing -- this is an institution responsible for protecting and promoting innovation -- our patent office receives more than 80 percent of patent applications electronically, then manually prints them out, scans them, and enters them into an outdated case management system."
Indeed. It is embarrassing (perhaps the fear of patent infringement holds the patent office back from modernizing?), but not quite as embarrassing as the fact that the patent office has not done its job of "protecting and promoting innovation" at all for a very long time. Given the number of questionable and obvious patents that it has approved, and its willingness to create massive patent thickets, it has become clear that the patent office has been much more focused on processing patents, not in promoting innovation.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 2:28pm

    receives ... patent applications electronically, then manually prints them out, scans them, and enters them into an outdated case management system.


    Hrmm, I'm going to patent that idea.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 2:29pm

    Now, I pretty much hate Obama, but the man is totally correct. Hey, when you're right, you're right.

     

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  3.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 18th, 2010 @ 2:42pm

    Re:

    "Now, I pretty much hate Obama, but the man is totally correct. Hey, when you're right, you're right."

    See, and I guess I'm the opposite in every way. I never held any inherent distaste for Obama (after all, it's not as if he's any different than the rest, or perhaps even ultimately in charge), but I'm getting awfully sick of these so-called admissions by him and his administration.

    I'm sick of hearing about how he recognizes how things are bad...tell me what the fuck you're going to do about it, idiot! And if the answer is nothing, then don't take the podium at all. And I'm not talking about mealy mouthed talking points nonsense either. Come up with a solution, tell me what it's going to be, and then DO IT. I have yet to see or hear one clearly defined action plan that has then been carried out by this guy....

     

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  4.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Jan 18th, 2010 @ 2:45pm

    The U.S. Patent Office is an institution responsible for protecting and promoting the continued operation of the U.S. Patent Office.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    :), Jan 18th, 2010 @ 2:46pm

    The Patent Office is Not Alone

    http://www.copyright.gov/

    The copyright office is a mystery to me.

    I dare anybody find something useful there that will put you at easy about if something is copyrighted or not.

    Well there is one useful link I found there and was this one.
    http://www.publicdomainsherpa.com/copyright-public-domain.html

    Explain a lot of things about copyright and shows how copyfraud is frequent and is overlooked by the government, have a copyright calculator and a tutorial that shows that no audio recordings in the U.S. are in the public domain and even when they go to the public domain states laws will make even more difficult.

    Did people know that in NY people can go to jail for copyright infringement?

     

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  6.  
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    Kevin (profile), Jan 18th, 2010 @ 3:00pm

    As with everything else

    "Where every something, being blent together turns to a wild of nothing."
    -- William Shakespeare

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    estevan, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 3:33pm

    Re: Re:

    Why would him discussing current matters, good or bad, offend you so much?

    Also, it's not as though he hasn't bad actual plans. It's just that some of those plans are flawed or just barely underway.

     

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  8.  
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    Ben Smith, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 3:37pm

    Ditto DH

    I voted for him but he will not get another chance if I have anything to say about it

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    interval, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 3:52pm

    Well, at least no one in Gov. can say "Hey, we didn't know how bad it was." Now there's no excuse.

     

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  10.  
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    Anony1, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 3:58pm

    "!" Is all I can say...

    @DH: Come to the light...that's it. You're getting it.

     

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  11.  
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    william (profile), Jan 18th, 2010 @ 4:10pm

    reminds me of the futurama episode, "How Hermes requisitioned his groove back". In that episode, they have this institution called the "Central Bureaucracy".

    In the building, there is something called "The Master In-Pile", which is a pile of pneumatic tube capsules about 5-6 floors high...

    Hermes was punished for finish sorting out the master in-pile two seconds early, with the notable quote, "a good bureaucrat never finishes early"

     

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  12.  
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    Rasmus, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 4:14pm

    Re: Re:

    There is a rather well known truth among decision makers, which states that "If you want a very bureaucratic organization to change, you must first embarrass the whole organization in public. Otherwise it won't change."

     

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  13.  
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    detenebrator (profile), Jan 18th, 2010 @ 4:45pm

    Once again, the problem is the President and Congress, not the agency

    The problem is that all the money collected by the PTO for those patents goes into the Federal general fund - they only get the maintenance fees, and they don't even consistently get that. They didn't actually move away from paper in shoeboxes until they were allowed to actually keep some of the money to fund an electronic modernization program (that was in this century). The crappy scanning system is because Congress stepped in and took the money away again. This is simply political smoke and mirrors, because he knows where the problem is, and it's not the PTO. They can only do what the President lets them do.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Oh yeah, an AC on this comment, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 5:02pm

    I'm going over to the FoxNews blog where people are a little nicer to the President. What is with you crotchety whiners?

    The President has much more important things to do than worry about the patent office.

     

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  15.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 18th, 2010 @ 5:13pm

    Re:

    "The President has much more important things to do than worry about the patent office."

    That's right! After all, those soldiers aren't going to kill themselves, are they?

     

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  16.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 18th, 2010 @ 5:32pm

    Re:

    "@DH: Come to the light...that's it. You're getting it."

    Meh, glad you appreciate the sentiment, but a lack of faith and holding our politician's feet to the fire isn't exactly a big leap for me ;)

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 6:24pm

    Re: Re:

    I heard the patent office accepted a patent for that. They're calling it: War.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Oh yeah, an AC on this comment ...again, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 6:40pm

    Re: Re:

    "That's right! After all, those soldiers aren't going to kill themselves, are they?"


    Um yeah they are, way to be compassionate DH!
    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics/AP/story/1430075.html

     

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  19.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Jan 18th, 2010 @ 7:13pm

    Re: Ditto DH

    Ben, I have read your posts before and have mostly found then intelligent, what happened? You voted for Obama? Now don't get me wrong I think most everyone of the people in Washington need to be replaced.

     

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  20.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Jan 18th, 2010 @ 7:19pm

    This is a surprise to anyone?

    Name one thing other than the Military, and law enforcement that any government can do better, cheaper, and more efficient than private companies. Government is creating laws and enforcing them. That's it.

     

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  21.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 18th, 2010 @ 7:27pm

    Re: Re: Ditto DH

    Hell, I would've voted for him too if forced. As it was, I voted for every choice except for Prez, as there was absolutely no good choice...

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 8:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: Ditto DH

    The libertarian party was on there, Bob Barr. You could have voted for him. I got mad when Ron Paul did not show up on the ballot. Our election system is a scam.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 8:58pm

    Re: This is a surprise to anyone?

    the government does not do law enforcement very well. The war on drugs is a failure, for instance.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 9:46pm

    Re: Re: This is a surprise to anyone?

    What about the War on Poverty?

     

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  25.  
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    kyle clements (profile), Jan 18th, 2010 @ 10:23pm

    Re: This is a surprise to anyone?

    Skeptical Cynic:
    "Name one thing other than the Military, and law enforcement that any government can do better, cheaper, and more efficient than private companies."

    um...health care?
    Your private system is the most expensive in the world, and it doesn't cover everyone. Ours costs less, and covers just about everyone. our infant mortality is lower, our life expectancy is longer, our drugs cost less, and it's free to use.
    How would privatization help anyone?

    What about Highways, both maintenance and traffic management? I've heard some nasty things about the privatized red light cameras reducing amber light duration to maximize profit, at the expense of safety.

    Garbage collection?

    Power? When electricity was deregulated in my province, the price skyrocketed.

    ever read this article?:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2009/dec/14/us-technological-race-climate-chan ge
    "US left behind in technological race to fight climate change.
    A speech by the US energy secretary, Steven Chu, shows how America's unquestioning belief in the free market has held back technological innovation"

    The idea that the free market can fix everything is a form of fundamentalism; potentially dangerous, and definitely foolish.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Jeff Shattuck, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 10:30pm

    Barack Obama is a world-class buck-passer. Worse, he doesn't understand government: the patent office works the way it works because it is a bureaucracy. It is not an efficient organization, and any money it "saves" will be used to maintain its current cost structure. Want proof? Look up Parkinson's Law, which is best summed up as "work expands to fill the time allotted to do it." Really people, get a clue. If offends me that Americans are so f-----g ignorant or stupid or both as to believe in a snake oil salesman like Barack. It especially offends me because I'm one of of the dumbf--k Americans who voted for Barack. Argh!

    Jeff Shattuck
    http://www.cerebellumblues.com

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 10:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: This is a surprise to anyone?

    I'm waiting for the "War on Poetry"

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 19th, 2010 @ 12:51am

    How do you fix the problem?

    It's nice to know that President Obama realizes how big a problem this is.

    But how long will it be before he calls in people to address the problem? Obviously, he has connections to Lawrence Lessig, who was instrumental in creating a marketable replacement for Copyright. The Creative Commons system is e-enabled and complete with licensing capabilities equal to Copyright.

    Surely a Stanford-turned-Harvard-Law-Professor-who-runs-a-competing-system-to-the-USPTO could actually fix some of these issues and weigh in.

     

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  29.  
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    Miguel Moura (profile), Jan 19th, 2010 @ 2:22am

    What's the problem?

    Can't see what's the problem with all that... they do reduce the paper going in, but keep a print out for themselves; even if i don't see the need for printing the entire document, most examiners will need at least a copy of the claims to scribble on...

    Obama is making a big deal out of almost nothing...

     

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  30.  
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    Dementia (profile), Jan 19th, 2010 @ 4:26am

    Re: Re: This is a surprise to anyone?

    Your comment regarding America's belief in the free market might be accurate, if it was a truly free market causing the issues. As has been noted here many times, the problem is that our "free" market has been legislated into a money generating machine for a number of industries through the use of patents and copyright. There is very little of the free market left. Too many organizations control areas so tightly that there is little, if any competition.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Spanky, Jan 19th, 2010 @ 4:36am

    If You Can Keep It

    Obama's right. The Patent Office is an embarrassment. Along with the Obama Administration and the United States of America.

    When "The President" decides to stand up for the American People, rather than appease the Conservatives and hope the Dems win the next election, maybe I'll have some respect for him. Until then, I gotta get a haircut.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 19th, 2010 @ 5:32am

    Re: Re: This is a surprise to anyone?

    The war on drugs is a failure? You mean, they're losing the war on drugs? So, let me get this straight, there's a war going on, and the people on drugs are winning, right? LMFAO.

    *doffs cap to Mr. Hicks

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Angus, Jan 19th, 2010 @ 6:04am

    The IRS does the same thing.

    Yup, with the non profit filings.

     

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  34.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Jan 19th, 2010 @ 6:35am

    Re: Re:

    Actually, his solution is to guilt us into allowing the government to give us a tax hike.

    Stossel's Blog

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    staff, Jan 19th, 2010 @ 6:37am

    fraud

    "Given the number of questionable and obvious patents that it has approved..."

    As to the quality of patents; based on court rulings of the last several years, roughly half of all litigated patents are upheld in court. That's pretty balanced and suggests there is no problem with patent quality. Further, seldom do cases ever make it to trial as the parties settle out of court. The facts do not support the contention that there is a patent quality issue. Still, with almost half a million patent applications filed each year a few are bound to be issued that shouldn't. Many patent system bashers like to cite silly patents such as a cat exercise patent. However, rarely are they ever an issue because you can't enforce them without money and you wont get the money unless you have a good patent. All inventors can do with such patents is paper their bathroom walls. Keep in mind it costs the patent holder about as much in a patent suit as it does the accused infringer. Often times it costs more because in multiple defendant cases infringers will band together to share costs. Investors are not stupid. If they don't have confidence in your patent, they will not invest. It's that simple. Bad patents do not get funded.

    Patent reform is a fraud on America.
    Please see http://truereform.piausa.org/ for a different/opposing view on patent reform.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Glenn, Jan 19th, 2010 @ 7:58am

    What does that sign outside the Patent Office say?

    12 Billion Served.

    (Clearly, the goal is quantity... not quality.)

     

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  37.  
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    nasch (profile), Jan 19th, 2010 @ 8:01am

    Re: Re: Re: This is a surprise to anyone?

    It's not the war on people on drugs. It's the war on drugs. The other side can't really win because the other side is a collection of chemical substances. However, the government can certainly lose, and that is what they are doing.

     

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  38.  
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    nasch (profile), Jan 19th, 2010 @ 8:06am

    Re: What's the problem?

    There's a difference between an examiner choosing to print out an application to take notes, and being required to print it out and then scan it again as part of the process.

     

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  39.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jan 19th, 2010 @ 10:44am

    Re: fraud

    based on court rulings of the last several years, roughly half of all litigated patents are upheld in court. That's pretty balanced and suggests there is no problem with patent quality.

    Uh. Really? *HALF* of all challenged patents are struck down, and you find that as evidence of patent quality? Yikes.

    Bad patents do not get funded.

    Stop. You're making me laugh.

     

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  40.  
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    Matt (profile), Jan 19th, 2010 @ 10:56am

    Re: Once again, the problem is the President and Congress, not the agency

    Here here! The patent office is broken, but it is Congress's (and to a lesser degree, the President's) fault. Of course, I would go in a different direction than increasing funding or appropriating money for an upgrade. I would abolish inefficient government-granted monopolies. But you are dead on that the power to fix this resides entirely with Congress and the President, not the civil servants plodding through their days at the PTO.

     

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  41.  
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    Matt (profile), Jan 19th, 2010 @ 11:10am

    Re: fraud

    Mike already got to the point that if 50% of the patents coming out of the PTO are bad, then the system is broken. That is _not_ a sign of patent quality.

    There are other problems here, though - apparently, 50% of the people willing to litigate their patents had crappy ones. So your concept that such patents are "rarely an issue" is belied by the facts - they are an issue half the time. And they are costly: it costs the defendant in a patent suit a great deal (you are simply lying or misinformed when you assert that it costs a plaintiff "about as much" to sue as it costs the defendant, but we can agree that it costs the defendant a hell of a lot) to defend, even when the suit is frivolous.

    Add to that that patents are an unnecessary tax on innovation to begin with (even if the current granting and enforcement mechanisms were improved,) and the system looks pretty broke.

    Incidentally, the statements on the website you link to are simply wrong. For instance, the NTP patents were _not_ upheld - most of them were determined to be invalid, and the last of the lot simply evaded reevaluation by a timely settlement. While 70% of patent cases settle before trial, over 90% of other cases do - so patent cases are particularly prone to waste trial resources. Your underlying premise is absolutely correct - patent has become a tool of large enterprises to stifle innovation by small upstarts - but the solution _is_ a wholesale reform starting with improving the quality of patents granted, or abolishing the system altogether.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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