And Now Europe Feels The Need To Catch Up To China And The US In The Self-Destructive Patent Race

from the bad-news-for-innovation dept

Well, you had to know this was coming. When you make the very dangerous mistake of assuming that patents are a proxy for innovation, then you get concerned when other countries/regions are getting more patents than you are. We've already covered how China is ramping up their patent approvals in an attempt to create an economic weapon against the West ("sorry, you can't sell those computers here, they violate the patent of this Shanghai firm..."). And, of course, the US has stupidly fallen into line and started approving patents willy-nilly to keep up. So, over in Europe, overreacting bureaucrats are about to make the same mistake. They've declared that the EU is "falling behind" in innovation (really, patents) and are urging a more streamlined patent system that would be European-wide. The idea, of course, is that with a EU-wide patent system, it becomes easier to get patents. Of course, that only helps innovation if patents actually lead to more innovation and, sadly, the evidence suggests otherwise.

Filed Under: china, eu, patents, us


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2011 @ 6:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The data goes back to 1963. Why did you choose 1984 particularly as a start point?

    I was working from the graphic provided. I shy away from the first couple of years on it, because there was no clear trend. The real increases in patent activity appear to have happened in the mid 80s

    No, the line is consistantly increasing to 2008 when it levels off but does not drop significantly. Do you have any data to support the 18-month figure for "backlog clearance"? Faintly possible according to that theory but that would mean the improved turnover came in the latter 6 months of 2010.

    The key answer is that more patents have been approved, but also more have been rejected. The new administrator for the USPTO appears (by his own words) to have change some of the methods that were used to review patents. At the same time, it is reported that patent applications have only increased slightly. From the original article:

    The dramatic rise in issuance rate is not tied directly to an increase in filings (although there has been a small increase in new application filings). Rather, the increase appears to be the result of administrative changes instituted by USPTO Director David Kappos who took office mid-year 2009 after being nominated by President Barack Obama.

    What is your source of data for the increased number of rejections?

    The same base article that Mike Masnick worked from:

    It is true, that a higher percentage of applications are resulting in issued patents. However, the PTO is also rejecting more applications than ever before.

    In the absence of a reason for extrapolating these particular points, the dates seem arbitarily chosen to make the cone fit around an arbitary chunk of the available data.

    I looked for the low points (drops) and I looked for high points (peaks). 96/97 area is still increasing, so not a drop off. 2004 (or 05, I don't love the graph) is a significant drop. Connection the biggest drop years together and connecting the higher peaks together gives a space of operation. The end idea isn't to be exact (some data may fall a hairs width outside, but rather to show the overall patterns, which are clear: The 2010 peak isn't really out of pattern.

    More importantly, if the new director and the new review methods has been in place longer in 2009, the increase in 2010 would have likely been lower, as 2009 likely would have had more patents approved.

    The main point out of all of this is that Mike Masnick is attributing to malice what can be much more easily explained by improved methods, a fair backlog of applications:

    http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2010/07/patently-o-bits-and-bytes-uspto-ppac-mornin g-report.html

    In January 2009, PTO had about 765k unexamined utility patent applications. That number is now down to about 735k. The PTO is pushing a 699k campaign to drive the number of unexamined cases under 700,000 this year.
    The PTO has made 62 new “experienced” hires this FY.


    Increasing staff, better methods in processing the applications... it all adds up. Mike tries to paint it as some evil world politics game, but really the USPTO is far in the weeds, they have enough applications on hand that it would take 3 or 4 years at the current rate to clear them if they were not getting 8000+ new applications a week (damn, innovation still happens in the US!).

    It kicks the soap box out from under him completely on this issue.

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