USPTO Doubled the Number of Granted Patents in Just a Few Years, Demonstrating Very Sharp Decline in Patent Quality
The higher one goes, the lesser/lower the quality
Summary: Numerical evidence of the great decline in US patents quality, which in recent years gave way to a lot more patent litigation, patent trolls (that exploit software patents), complaints about the patent system, and invalidations inside US courts
The number of patent applications filed worldwide continues to increase, up by 4.6 percent in 2014 for a total of nearly 2.7 million, according to the 2015 edition of the World Intellectual Property Indicators. The increasing number of patents filed worldwide demonstrates the strength of ongoing innovation and the value companies put on protecting their intellectual property where they wish to do business. The filing numbers would likely be even higher, and across more countries, if the filers were more prepared for the costs associated with filing patents.
An article by Dennis Crouch says that “the Federal Circuit has ruled that the IPR procedure allowing the same PTAB panel to both institute an IPR and issue the final decision cancelling the claims. in the process, the divided court rejected both a constitutional and statutory challenge.” Another new piece from Crouch says: “As expected, the USPTO issued just under 300,000 utility patents in calendar year 2015. The new number represents a drop from 2014 – the first drop since President Obama took office and appointed David Kappos as USPTO Director. Barring a new radical transformation of the Office, I expect that the grant numbers will hover around this mark for the next several years.”
“IBM has a history of patent aggression and it promotes software patents in Europe and in New Zealand, not just in the US.”Under David Kappos, the Office has been pressuring examiners to just approve faster, leading to the unbelievable situation where 92% of applications are ultimately approved. What’s even the point of examination with such high acceptance rates? Innovation didn’t accelerate, but the number of patents nearly doubled, which means that the quality of patents went down considerably (unless one has another explanation; the economic downturn definitely wasn’t it).
“IBM tops US patent list for 23rd year,” WIPR wrote yesterday, noting that “IBM has topped the list of recipients of US patents in 2015, beating Samsung and Canon to the top spot, but there has been a slight decline in the overall number of patents granted since 2014.”
Here is what Reuters wrote about it: “International Business Machines Corp (IBM.N) was granted the most U.S. patents for the 23rd year in a row in 2015, according to a ranking by patent analysis firm IFI Claims Patents Services.
“There were 298,407 utility patents granted in 2015, down slightly from 2014, IFI Claims said on Wednesday. IBM gained 7,355 patents last year. Utility patents cover function rather than design.”
Who on Earth can conceivably keep track of this many patents. The whole purpose of this system is lost due to overload. It’s good for patent lawyers (and their richest clients), bad for everybody else.
Over at TechDirt there’s a summary of some of these issues, based on a writeup from Masnick. “Qualcomm Says It’s Fighting For The Little Guy, While Really Blocking Patent Reform That Would Help The Little Guy” is the headline. To quote a part which covers trolls and Alice: “Three out of the five panelists — Kate Doerksen, Lee Cheng and Brian Mennell — represented victims of patent trolls. Kate and Brian both have experienced the perils of being a small startup and getting hit with patent lawsuits that have the potential to destroy their businesses. You can read Kate’s story here, in which she’s being sued by a large company trying to keep her startup from competing altogether. It’s even reached the point where Kate agreed to something of a deal with the devil: Erich Spangenberg. As we’ve discussed, Spangenberg, who was one of the most aggressive patent trolls, recently shifted his business into being a sort of reverse patent troll, where he makes deals with small companies like Kate’s, taking an ownership stake in the company in exchange for “helping” the company deal with patent trolls, usually by seeking post-grant review to invalidate the patents being asserted against the startups.
“Mennell has the classic patent troll story of running a startup and getting hit by a patent troll that undermines the ability of the company to stay in business (and also notes that the Supreme Court’s Alice decision made him lose a business method patent, though he doesn’t seem to see that as problematic).”
In this current landscape of patents/patenting it is only good to be a massive corporation such as IBM, a patent troll, or a patent lawyer. Finjan, which has become a bit like a patent troll, isn’t doing too badly.
If examiners are led to believe that more patents mean more “success”, then they probably need to reassess their views. More patents typically mean lower barrier to acceptance or, in other words, lower quality of patents. █