[linux-elitists] [susette@blackwellsf.com: SEEKING LINUX USERS FOR DOCUMENTARY STYLE PHOTO SHOOT IN SF]

Rusty Foster rusty@kuro5hin.org
Tue Mar 20 10:41:44 PST 2001

Don Marti wrote:
> Any comments on the following patent reform suggestions? Working
> version, with links, at http://zgp.org/~dmarti/patent-reform-draft/
>            Fund USPTO so that it can afford to attract and retain
>            highly skilled examiners, as well as maintain a
>            world-class library of international patents, journals,
>            catalogs, and other information. A patent office without
>            full funding is the economic equivalent of a fully loaded
>            B-52 bomber with no maps, no compass, and an untrained
>            navigator.

This one is key. I used to live in DC, and was friends with several
patent examiners. They were nice enough people, but from what they told
me, here's how the patent examination process works:

1) Patent examiners are not experts in any field, and often not even
trained in the field they examine for. The ones I knew were generally
science-majors, fresh out of college, but were examining for things like
electronic devices. No attention was paid to what their feild of
expertise was - they wree assigned to the department that needed
staffing most.

2) The patent application process, from the perspective of the examiner,
is as follows:

* First patent application is rejected. It's not even read. If it's a
first try, it's rejected. Hey, they have to pay a non-refundable fee, so
this is a basic revenue-making action.

* Second patent application is read, and a cursory search is done to
find any possible conflicts with existing patents. If anything even
approaching a similar patent is found, the application is rejected

* Third try gets a more thorough examination, and will be approved if
there's nothing that obviously conflicts.

* The above goes out the window during the last month of the quota
period, when all examiners are scrambling to approve their mandatory
quota of patents to get their bonuses. Virtually anything submitted
during this time will be approved. Yes, this is really how the quota
system works in practice.

Basically, patent applications are being examined by non-experts who are
not given enough information to make an informed decision about anything
but the possibility of a conflict with another patent. Whether the
patent is "obvious" or deserved doesn't even come into it. 

The pay is not nearly enough to attract people knowlegeable in the
relevant fields, and the work itself is dull enough that I doubt it ever
will be. I think opening patent applications up to the public is a huge
step forward in improving this process, since experts in the
technologies don't have to be employees of the USPTO to help weed out
the obvious patents.

Rusty Foster             | "Semtex.  I think Semtex 
rusty@kuro5hin.org       |  should be involved."
http://www.kuro5hin.org/ |     --Jeff "hemos" Bates

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