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Ludicrous Patent Applications Must Cease

Garry Boyd
From an Intellectual Capital Perspective

Issue 74: August 2008
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These pages have previously sent some of you into an emotional coma with stories about patent offices…………and this writer apologises in advance for continuing the theme. It’s just that a patent application crossed my desk that is worthy of comment, tongue in cheek or otherwise.

Below is what constitutes an invention in the eyes of patent law. Whether or not an invention is a composition of existing material or a radical breakthrough, any application made to a patent office must articulate the basis of the invention in a professional manner so as to persuade the examiner the claims are within the well established requirements.

(The following is from Wikipedia, with links to further explanations for those of you that wish to be bored further.)

An invention is a new form, composition of matter, device, or process. Some inventions are based on pre-existing forms, compositions, processes or ideas. Other inventions are radical breakthroughs which may extend the boundaries of human knowledge or experience.
Invention that gets out into the world is innovation, and as such it may be a major breakthrough, it may have a minor or incremental impact or its effect can be in between these two extremes.
There is also a “cultural invention” which is an innovative set of useful behaviors adopted by people who then pass them on. [1]
An invention that is novel and not obvious to those who are skilled in the same field may be able to obtain the legal protection of a patent.

The pressure on patent examiners in the US to efficiently deal with the workload created by rapidly increasing applications is being addressed in part by the Patent Reform Act of 2007.
However, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) acknowledges that even with an aggressive recruiting policy, a backlog of 1.3 million applications will be evident at the end of the 2011 fiscal year. The recruitment of 1,200 examiners per annum over the next 5 years is based on a history of attrition of one in every two examiners doing a runner right out of the USPTO.

It is a pointless exercise to drag graduates out of universities and then burn them in much the same manner as our pharmacists’ are turned into battery hens. One of the reasons for both the attrition and the backlog is the poor standard of applications, both in a content sense and presentation.

This attrition must be arrested, and by improving the application protocol examiners just may start to find some job satisfaction.

US patent 20040161257 discloses;

“Display control apparatus for image forming apparatus”

There is disclosed an image forming apparatus that has two operation panels—a standard operation panel and an optional operation panel. The image forming apparatus has a standard mode and a professional mode which provide different displays on the operation panels. In addition, custom displays may be stored and recalled by the users.
Yes, yes the language is standard patent speak…………but so far, so good.

However…….Claim 9 reads as follows;

9. The method of providing user interface displays in an image forming apparatus which is really a bogus claim included amongst real claims, and which should be removed before filing; wherein the claim is included to determine if the inventor actually read the claims and the inventor should instruct the attorneys to remove the claim.

Somebody is apparently displaying a sense of humour not generally found in patent offices………….
A bogus claim?
“the inventor should instruct the attorneys to remove the claim”?
Hmmm, I wonder if the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny drafted the application?

The problem is this claim will take much valuable time in the USPTO system to deal with. In our World, the equivalent could well be a patient wanting to discuss hair colour with a busy pharmacist.

Despite the fact the other 29 claims cited in 20040161257 may be appropriately worded and containing inventive material, it should have been put through a shredder. Having said that, the first Amendment would probably give cause for some wag to demand retribution.

The USPTO and other patent offices around the World must take steps to ensure applications are filed in an appropriated standard with worthy material. Some of the more ludicrous applications should be rejected immediately. Whilst it is arguable that the interpretation of “ludicrous” is as difficult as determining one as being “skilled in the Art”, it might be worthwhile if patent offices demand a documented path to commercialisation from those that file applications that are obviously not meritorious.

Pseudo-intellectual wanabee’s have long got their jollies by filing patent applications in the misguided belief they are making some sort of perverse artistic statement. The following is but just one example of this writer’s suggestion that patent applications must be based on the notion that the invention is useful and capable of being commercialised. After all, the purpose of securing intellectual property is to seek a trading monopoly.

Homunculus Constructed from Common Rubberbands

Homunculus Constructed from Common Rubberbandspatent#: US D522914Fitting squarely in the "Why in the world would anyone seek patent protection on this thing?" camp, is this delightfully odd, rubberband creation. Part Gumby, part Egyptian mummy, the more I look at it the more I am drawn in to its quirky oddness. I was particularly delighted by this definition of "homunculus" I found on Onelook: "Homunculus (noun): a tiny fully formed individual that (according to the discredited theory of preformation) is supposed to be present in the sperm cell" Little, rubbery sperm mummies have risen from the gym sock to seek vengeance on their careless masturbating murderers! Now there's a Saturday morning cartoon even the Pope could love! Perhaps it's a good thing this thing has patent protection after all. Learn the art of Rubb-Origami™ at Rubber Rubberband Man™ website!filed under Toys

Sadly, the USPTO granted D522914 on 13/06/2006.

The USPTO might one day wake up to the fact that a backlog of 1.3 million applications and escalating attrition might have something to do with the fact examiners did not study for years to interpret the thinking behind material of this calibre.

The cost of giving credence to ludicrous applications by patent offices around the World has a destabilising effect on business. At the very least, patent offices should implement a protocol whereby respond rankings apply with regard to the merit of the subject matter. Ludicrous applications are delaying the processing of applications containing brilliant subject matter.

Somewhere in a patent office the secret to perpetual motion might be lying dormant, simply because thousands of examiners with science or engineering degrees are contemplating the merit of an application for SCUBA equipment to be attached to a Goldfish.

Garry Boyd. August 2008.

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