Switzerland Not Swaziland
The way the patent compact works is that an inventor exchanges disclosure of their invention for an exclusive right to that inventionfor 20 years. Disclosure should include where to find the inventor and the assignee. Here is this week's addition of Where's the Inventor.
Perusing US patents granted to first named inventors to foreign countries issued on October 29, 2013 our attention was grabbed by the inclusion of the African nation of Swaziland, which received two grants. Since this is a country which rarely appears on the list of international inventors receiving US patents we were curious about the inventors and inventions documented in these patents.
But first, a bit of historical perspective. The USPTO maintains a list of US grants from 1963 through 2012 for US states and foreign countries. In that 50-year period, Swaziland received one (1) US patent, in 1978. That patent, US 4,081,346 for a Horizontal oscillating treating barrel apparatus, was granted to Denis S. Fogo of Manzini, Swaziland and his co-inventor Roy W. Skaggs, Jr. of Mt. Clemens, Michigan on March 28, 1978. It was assigned to Oxy Metal Industries Corporation, Detroit, Michigan. The invention provided improvements to metal electroplating equipment.
For Swaziland, receiving two patents on the same day would be a major boost to the country's IP resources.
Today's Swaziland grants are design patents, D692,547 and D692,551, both granted to Peter Wirz of Luzern or Lucerne, SZ (USPTO's country code for Swaziland). The design patents are for an Aroma-diffusing apparatus, and are assigned to Serene House International Enterprise Ltd. of Road Town, VG (USPTO's country code for the British Virgin Islands).
USPTO's sometimes stunning lack of geographical quality control has reared its head again.
Inventor Wirz is from Lucerne (or Luzern) Switzerland, not Swaziland. A land-locked country in Europe, not a land-locked country in southern Africa. The Oath that Mr. Wirz filed (shown in the top portion of the accompanying graphic) leaves no doubt that he is from Switzerland. The next point that his country is identified in the prosecution history of the '547 patent is on the Application Filing Receipt form, which the Patent Office lists as 'Swaziland' (bottom portion of graphic). The identical pattern is found on his '551 patent. Most curiously, he was awarded three other design patents today (D692,548; D692,549; D692,550) that correctly provide his country code (CH). Not only does the USPTO fail to provide geographic quality control on individual patents, there is also no checking to see if there are anomalies among multiple patents granted to the same inventor.
We recently wrote of another case of errant geography on an issued US patent. We can find cases like this every week, some of which are amusing, except of course to anyone who needs to contact the inventor or assignee if they think they need a license and while more mundane patent grantees and the states or countries that should have been credited with the new patent. If the Patent Office fails to accurately maintain inventors' geographical designations through the course of prosecution and on the official granted patent, what other data is problematic?
Switzerland is listed this week as having received 54 patents, not counting Wirz's two. In the 50 years from 1963-2012, USPTO lists Switzerland as being the 8th-ranked foreign country that received US patents, with 60,659. Or is it 8th, and does it really have almost 61,000 patents? There really is no way of knowing.