The Sun Sets on 2014
We would be remiss in not pointing out three important patent phenomena fading to black at the end of the year. 2014 is coming to an end. Business methods patents are fading into the sunset. The venerable USPC is slipping away.
2014 Is Winding Down
2014 is coming to a close. We're nearing the end of a very productive year in US patent land. As of December 2, 2014, USPTO has granted 281,233 utility patents, and there are still four more Tuesdays in December. Design patents are up slightly. Plant patents are on fire, up +33.16%Y/Y to 1,016. We are happy The latest plant patent coming out of Oregon for new hazelnut plants PP25,022 Corylus plant named Dorris. Oregon is one of the world's largest producer of hazelnuts. Nine counties in Oregon are home to 97 percent of all hazelnut orchards in the U.S., according to the USDA. By the way, if you're a Frangelico fan better stock up now. Turkey, the worlds largest producer of hazelnuts had a very bad year and commodities experts are expecting a shortage of nuts and rising prices.
Business Methods Patents Are Evaporating
Business Methods patents are fading away. This week there are only 15 new business methods patents. It looks like USPTO is flushing the system of these contentious patents. Time to rethink whether the Business Methods Watch will be needed next year.
The Venerable USPC is Retiring
Our old friend the US Patent Classification System (USPC) is about to become classification system emeritus. The USPC will become a "permanent collection" of patents in 2015 used for prior art research and not to classify US patents. In January 2015 USPTO is transitioning to the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system as its primary classification scheme. (See the work Way Better Patents analysis done for PIUG here.) Looking at the data on the patents it looks like patents are being classified in one system (CPC) and searched in another (USPC). Examiners haven't transitioned to using the CPC as their primary prior art search tool and it's not clear if they will.
A Breathtaking $44M
In the latest Public Patent Advisory Committee Report issued in November, USPTO reported that it has already used 868,000 hours of the USPTO 1.1 million hours planned for training examiners on the new system. 1.1 million hours is 137,500 eight hour work days.
Consider this, a quick survey of job search sites report where examiners can post their salary data show that the average patent examiner salary is $83,924 (about $40.00/hour). A little back of the napkin math using just a rough estimate of examiner salary numbers which don't account for a fully loaded rate — no benefits, no analysis of time lost prosecuting patent applications while going to classification school, etc. — show that USPTO has spent a stunning $34,720,000 on the 868,000 hours they reported to the Advisory Committee. The cost for all 1.1 million hours of traing is a breathtaking $44,000,000.
As famous American inventor Ron Popeil says, "Wait, there's more."
There are many important details on the transition to the CPC that remain unresolved or at least unannounced to external users, the stakeholders, the people who get patents, pay fees, and invent things. Among the open issues —
- When will all patents have CPC data? This week only 86% of new patents had CPC data.
- How will all reporting and economic information that relies on USPC transition to the CPC? Innovation economists use the USPC to organize information to map longitudinal economic performance in the innovation sector. Groupings using USPC classes have been widely used to analyze economic performance in IP intense industry sectors. What now?
- Will the Technology Centers be rearranged once the CPC is implemented? USPTO has said it won't use the CPC for workflow and administrative purposes. Patent applications are routed based on subject matter. Where an application winds up can impact both how long it takes to get a patent and whether you get one at all.
- When will USPTO or EPO publish official, detailed guidance and procedures for actually classifying patents under the new system? We need to know the logic of how patents are assigned classification symbols. If USPTO and EPO want to maximize the utility of the new system and get a return on their $44M training investment both sides of the patent equation — examinger and inventors — need to have the skills. While there are broad high level materials floating around, but nothing detailed enough to give external users the skills to use the classifications the same way the examiners do. We continue to scour the internet, and have yet to find it.
Which Brings Us to 2015
Beginning next year we'll be reporting our box scores using the Technology Centers and Art Units. After all, this is where the other half of the most important duplet of patent talent exists, patent examiners. Inventors on one side, examiners on the other. This approach focuses on where patents with like subject matter are being examined while USPTO finishes its transition to the new system. By the way duplet is a patent word. Pair, couple, twosome. Duplet shows up in amino acid patents among others.
Next year we'll take another deep dive into the data from a different perspective. We think you'll like it. Now on to this week's box scores.