The Inventor from Greenland
As of today, USPTO has issued 18,300 corrections this year including the 608 issued this week. These are the corrections that are actually made, a lot of the errors eligible for correction never get fixed because the patent holder doesn't care about the problem or that the person who finds it doesn't have standing to ask USPTO to make the change. Corrections are not free, someone has to make them. Which brings us to this week's inventor from Greenland.
We were doing our Box Score magic we noted an unusual occurrence. There was a patent granted to a first named inventor in Greenland. In 2012 Greenland didn't even make the list so this was surprising. Was this another indicator of the informationization of invention? Cross-border inventorship between inventors in the US and an inventor from the world's largest island with a population of about 57,700. Fascinating. Well until it wasn't. A closer look revealed that it was an inventor from Smyrna Greenland, but one from Georgia.
US 8,553,870 for Computer telephony integration (CTI) complete healthcare contact center.
Because the first named inventor was identified as being from GL, the international code for Greenland, the patent was assigned to Greenland. It was counted in the non-US patent grants.
When the inventor, Diane Brown Turcan signed the Declaration for Patent Application which calls for the inventor to declare, "My residence, post office address, and citizenship are stated below next to my name." The signature block reflected:
So the inventor signed the declaration with an error in her address right after the part which says, "I hereby declare that all statements made herein of my own knowledge are true… and that such willful false statements may jeopardize the validity of the application or any patent issued thereon." Probably not willful but.
The 2002 Declaration also showed FOUR patent attorneys.
Three of the attorneys are still registered with USPTO. Mr. Zimmerman's record shows that he is in private practice. Mr. Delgado's record shows that he now works for Cox Communications, and Ms. Mark's record shows that she now works for Thompson, Inc. in Princeton, NJ. There was no record of Ms. Walters at USPTO. Ms. Walters was disbarred from practicing law in North Carolina in April of 2012 for misappropriation of client funds. She previously was reprimanded by North Carolina for misrepresenting herself as being licensed to practice law in Virginia. Apparently she misappropriated funds from an inventors forum. (Bad form.)
So apparently no one proof-read the documents when they were submitted; no automated systems caught an obvious error; and as it wound itself through the patent and trademark office for the last 10+ years no one made a correction.
In the interest of fairness, the rest of the related patents which were handled by Mr. Zimmerman are correct.
This patent and its supporting documentation has been around since 2002. A country that has received only one US patent where the first named inventor was from Greenland ever and that one came prior to 1999 suddenly gets a patent and no one wonders if this is was for real. A deeper look revealed that Greenlandian inventors received 1 utility patent and 4 design patents. Another utility patent lists a co-inventor as being from Gloucestershire, Greenland.
As for this week's patent, no quality assurance system that kicked it out for review? Address verification software is fairly standard stuff in most systems. The problem with USPTO is that they have such a full plate in the CIO's office that this is probably not a priority. But it is something that they can ask their contractors to address.
Ok, here is the rub. First, USPTO placed the patent in the non-US category when it should have been categorized as a US grant. Second, every time USPTO has to make corrections it costs money. And finally, when the corrections are made, if Mr. Zimmerman, et al decide to pursue a fix, they don't make their way to the live full text data other than to have notice at the top of the page that a correction has been made. A correction is only available in image format with no way for the public searcher not skilled in the arcania of patent searching at USPTO to know how to find the correction. If you want to improve the quality of the patent system, you need to address the quality of the patents and it is not just the fuzzy definitions of the inventions or the hidden ownership details.
USPTO shouldn't be making 18,300 corrections in 41 weeks. The correct address information for an inventor should be part of the disclosure aspect of a patent. USPTO is busy addressing serious Real-Party-In-Interest issues. A good start might be to fix the addresses and figure out a quality program to reduce the number of corrections in the first place.
18,300 corrections so far?