United States Patent and Trademark Office
Overview
 
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO or USPTO) is an agency in the United States Department of Commerce
United States Department of Commerce
The United States Department of Commerce is the Cabinet department of the United States government concerned with promoting economic growth. It was originally created as the United States Department of Commerce and Labor on February 14, 1903...

 that issues patent
Patent
A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

s to inventors and businesses for their inventions, and trademark
Trademark
A trademark, trade mark, or trade-mark is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization, or other legal entity to identify that the products or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source, and to distinguish its products or...

 registration for product and intellectual property
Intellectual property
Intellectual property is a term referring to a number of distinct types of creations of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights are recognized—and the corresponding fields of law...

 identification.

The USPTO is based in Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of 2009, the city had a total population of 139,966. Located along the Western bank of the Potomac River, Alexandria is approximately six miles south of downtown Washington, D.C.Like the rest of northern Virginia, as well as...

, after a 2006 move from the Crystal City
Crystal City, Virginia
Crystal City is an urban neighborhood in the southeastern corner of Arlington County, Virginia, south of downtown Washington, D.C.. Its residents can live, shop, and work without going outside, due to its extensive integration of office buildings and residential high-rise buildings using...

 area of Arlington, Virginia
Arlington County, Virginia
Arlington County is a county in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The land that became Arlington was originally donated by Virginia to the United States government to form part of the new federal capital district. On February 27, 1801, the United States Congress organized the area as a subdivision of...

. The offices under Patents and the Chief Information Officer that remained just outside the southern end of Crystal City completed moving to Randolph Square, a brand-new building in Shirlington Village, on April 27, 2009.

The head of the USPTO is David J. Kappos
David Kappos
David "Dave" J. Kappos is the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office . Prior to being confirmed to this post by the U.S. Senate on August 7, 2009, Kappos was the vice president and assistant general counsel, intellectual...

, who was sworn in on August 13, 2009 following the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

's confirmation of his appointment by President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

.
Encyclopedia
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO or USPTO) is an agency in the United States Department of Commerce
United States Department of Commerce
The United States Department of Commerce is the Cabinet department of the United States government concerned with promoting economic growth. It was originally created as the United States Department of Commerce and Labor on February 14, 1903...

 that issues patent
Patent
A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

s to inventors and businesses for their inventions, and trademark
Trademark
A trademark, trade mark, or trade-mark is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization, or other legal entity to identify that the products or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source, and to distinguish its products or...

 registration for product and intellectual property
Intellectual property
Intellectual property is a term referring to a number of distinct types of creations of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights are recognized—and the corresponding fields of law...

 identification.

The USPTO is based in Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of 2009, the city had a total population of 139,966. Located along the Western bank of the Potomac River, Alexandria is approximately six miles south of downtown Washington, D.C.Like the rest of northern Virginia, as well as...

, after a 2006 move from the Crystal City
Crystal City, Virginia
Crystal City is an urban neighborhood in the southeastern corner of Arlington County, Virginia, south of downtown Washington, D.C.. Its residents can live, shop, and work without going outside, due to its extensive integration of office buildings and residential high-rise buildings using...

 area of Arlington, Virginia
Arlington County, Virginia
Arlington County is a county in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The land that became Arlington was originally donated by Virginia to the United States government to form part of the new federal capital district. On February 27, 1801, the United States Congress organized the area as a subdivision of...

. The offices under Patents and the Chief Information Officer that remained just outside the southern end of Crystal City completed moving to Randolph Square, a brand-new building in Shirlington Village, on April 27, 2009.

The head of the USPTO is David J. Kappos
David Kappos
David "Dave" J. Kappos is the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office . Prior to being confirmed to this post by the U.S. Senate on August 7, 2009, Kappos was the vice president and assistant general counsel, intellectual...

, who was sworn in on August 13, 2009 following the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

's confirmation of his appointment by President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

. He succeeded John Doll
John J. Doll
John J. Doll was the Acting United States Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Acting director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office since the resignation of Jon W. Dudas on January 20, 2009. Before that, he was Commissioner for Patents at the USPTO...

, who served as acting head following the resignation of Jon W. Dudas at the end of the George W. Bush administration.

The USPTO cooperates with the European Patent Office
European Patent Office
The European Patent Office is one of the two organs of the European Patent Organisation , the other being the Administrative Council. The EPO acts as executive body for the Organisation while the Administrative Council acts as its supervisory body as well as, to a limited extent, its legislative...

 (EPO) and the Japan Patent Office
Japan Patent Office
The Japan Patent Office is a Japanese governmental agency in charge of industrial property right affairs, under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry...

 (JPO) as one of the Trilateral Patent Offices. The USPTO is also a Receiving Office, an International Searching Authority and an International Preliminary Examination Authority for international patent applications filed in accordance with the Patent Cooperation Treaty
Patent Cooperation Treaty
The Patent Cooperation Treaty is an international patent law treaty, concluded in 1970. It provides a unified procedure for filing patent applications to protect inventions in each of its contracting states...

.

Mission

The legal basis for the United States patent system is Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

, wherein the powers of Congress are defined. It states, in part:
"The Congress shall have Power ... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;"


The mission of the PTO is
  • promoting "industrial and technological progress in the United States and strengthen the national economy" by:
  • administering the laws relating to patents and trademarks;
  • advising the Secretary of Commerce
    United States Secretary of Commerce
    The United States Secretary of Commerce is the head of the United States Department of Commerce concerned with business and industry; the Department states its mission to be "to foster, promote, and develop the foreign and domestic commerce"...

    , the President of the United States
    President of the United States
    The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

    , and the administration on patent, trademark, and copyright
    Copyright
    Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time...

     protection; and
  • providing advice on the trade-related aspects of intellectual property
    Intellectual property
    Intellectual property is a term referring to a number of distinct types of creations of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights are recognized—and the corresponding fields of law...

    .

Structure

, the end of the U.S. government's fiscal year, the PTO had 9,716 employees, nearly all of whom are based at its five-building headquarters complex in Alexandria. Of those, 6,242 were patent examiners (almost all of whom were assigned to examine utility patents; only 99 were assigned to examine design patent
Design patent
In the United States, a design patent is a patent granted on the ornamental design of a functional item. Design patents are a type of industrial design right. Ornamental designs of jewelry, furniture, beverage containers and computer icons are examples of objects that are covered by design...

s) and 388 were trademark examining attorneys; the rest are support staff. While the agency has noticeably grown in recent years, the rate of growth was far slower in fiscal 2009 than in the recent past; this is borne out by data from fiscal 2005 to the present:
At end of FY Employees Patent examiners Trademark examining attorneys
2009 9,716 6,242 388
2008 9,518 6,055 398
2007 8,913 5,477 404
2006 8,189 4,883 413
2005 7,363 4,258 357


Patent examiners are generally scientists and engineers who do not necessarily hold law degrees, while all trademark examiners must be licensed attorneys. All examiners work under a strict, "count"-based production system. For every application, "counts" are earned by composing, filing, and mailing a first Office action on the merits, and upon disposal of an application.

The Commissioner for Patents oversees three main bodies, headed by the Deputy Commissioner for Patent Operations, currently Peggy Focarino, the Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy, currently Andrew Hirshfeld as Acting Deputy, and finally the Commissioner for Patent Resources and Planning, which is currently vacant. The Patent Operations of the office is divided into nine different technology centers that deal with various arts.

Decisions of patent examiners may be appealed to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences
Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences
The Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences is an administrative law body of the United States Patent and Trademark Office , which decides issues of patentability. The Chief Administrative Patent Judge is James Donald Smith.-Structure:...

, an administrative law body
Article I and Article III tribunals
In the United States, the American legal system includes both state courts and United States federal courts. The federal tribunals may be an Article III tribunal or another adjudicative body classified as an Article I or an Article IV tribunal...

 of the USPTO. Decisions of the BPAI may further be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
-Vacancies and pending nominations:-List of former judges:-Chief judges:Notwithstanding the foregoing, when the court was initially created, Congress had to resolve which chief judge of the predecessor courts would become the first chief judge...

, or a civil suit may be brought against the Commissioner of Patents in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia is a federal district court. Appeals from the District are taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit The United States District Court for the District of Columbia (in case citations, D.D.C.) is a...

. The United States Supreme Court
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 may ultimately decide on a patent case. Similarly, decisions of trademark examiners may be appealed to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board
Trademark Trial and Appeal Board
The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board is a body within the United States Patent and Trademark Office responsible for hearing and deciding certain kinds of cases involving trademarks. These include appeals from decisions by USPTO Examiners denying registration of marks, and opposition proceedings...

, with subsequent appeals directed to the Federal Circuit, or a civil action may also be brought.

In recent years, the USPTO has seen increasing delays between when a patent application is filed and when it issues. To address its workload challenges, the USPTO has undertaken an aggressive program of hiring and recruitment. The USPTO hired 1,193 new patent examiners In Fiscal Year 2006 (year ending September 30, 2006), 1,215 new examiners in fiscal 2007, and 1,211 in fiscal year 2008. The USPTO expected to continue hiring patent examiners at a rate of approximately 1,200 per year through 2012; however, due to a slowdown in new application filings since the onset of the late-2000s economic crisis, and projections of substantial declines in maintenance fees
Maintenance fee (patent)
Maintenance fees or renewal fees are fees that are paid to maintain a granted patent in force. Some patent laws require the payment of maintenance fees for pending patent applications. Not all patent laws require the payment of maintenance fees and different laws provide different regulations...

 in coming years, the agency imposed a hiring freeze in early March 2009.

In 2006, USPTO instituted a new training program for patent examiners called the "Patent Training Academy." It is an eight-month program designed to teach new patent examiners the fundamentals of patent law, practice and examination procedure in a college-style environment. Because of the impending USPTO budget crisis previously alluded to, it had been rumored that the Academy would be closed by the end of 2009. Focarino, then Acting Commissioner for Patents, denied in a May 2009 interview that the Academy was being shut down, but stated that it would be cut back because the hiring goal for new examiners in fiscal 2009 was reduced to 600. Ultimately, 588 new patent examiners were hired in fiscal 2009.

Fee diversion

For many years, Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 "diverted" about 10% of the fees that the USPTO collected into the general treasury of the United States. In effect, this took money collected from the patent system to use for the general budget. This fee diversion has been generally opposed by patent practitioners (e.g., patent attorney
Patent attorney
A patent attorney is an attorney who has the specialized qualifications necessary for representing clients in obtaining patents and acting in all matters and procedures relating to patent law and practice, such as filing an opposition...

s and patent agent
Patent attorney
A patent attorney is an attorney who has the specialized qualifications necessary for representing clients in obtaining patents and acting in all matters and procedures relating to patent law and practice, such as filing an opposition...

s), inventors, the USPTO, as well as former federal judge Paul R. Michel. These stakeholders would rather use the funds to improve the patent office and patent system, such as by implementing the USPTO's 21st Century Strategic Plan. The last six annual budgets of the George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 administration did not divert any USPTO fees, and the first budget of the Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 administration continues this practice; however, stakeholders continue to press for a permanent end to fee diversion.

Patents

  • On July 31, 1790, the first U.S. patent was issued to Samuel Hopkins
    Samuel Hopkins (inventor)
    Samuel Hopkins was an American inventor from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Pittsford, Vermont. On July 31, 1790, he was granted the first U.S. patent, under the new U.S. patent statute just signed into law by President Washington on April 10, 1790...

     for an improvement "in the making of Pot ash
    Potash
    Potash is the common name for various mined and manufactured salts that contain potassium in water-soluble form. In some rare cases, potash can be formed with traces of organic materials such as plant remains, and this was the major historical source for it before the industrial era...

     and Pearl ash
    Potassium carbonate
    Potassium carbonate is a white salt, soluble in water , which forms a strongly alkaline solution. It can be made as the product of potassium hydroxide's absorbent reaction with carbon dioxide. It is deliquescent, often appearing a damp or wet solid...

     by a new Apparatus and Process." This patent was signed by then President George Washington
    George Washington
    George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

    .
  • The X-Patent
    X-Patent
    The X-Patents are all the patents issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office from July 1790 , to July 1836. The actual number is unknown, but the best estimate is 9,957. The records were burned in a fire, in December 1836, while in temporary storage...

    s (the first 10,280 issued between 1790 and 1836) were destroyed by a fire; fewer than 3,000 of those have been recovered and re-issued with numbers that include an "X". The X generally appears at the end of the numbers hand-written on full-page patent images; however, in patent collections and for search purposes, the X is considered to be the patent type – analogous to the "D" of design patents – and appears at the beginning of the number. The X distinguishes the patents from those issued after the fire, which began again with patent number 1.
  • Each year, the PTO issues over 150,000 patents to companies and individuals worldwide. , the PTO has granted over 8,000,000 patents.

Trademarks

The USPTO examines applications for trademark
Trademark
A trademark, trade mark, or trade-mark is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization, or other legal entity to identify that the products or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source, and to distinguish its products or...

 registration. If approved, the trademarks are registered on either the Principal Register
Principal Register
In United States trademark law, the Principal Register is the primary register of trademarks maintained by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It is governed by Subchapter I of the Lanham Act....

 or the Supplemental Register
Supplemental Register
In United States trademark law, the Supplemental Register is the secondary register of trademarks maintained by the United States Patent and Trademark Office...

, depending upon whether the mark meets the appropriate distinctiveness criteria. However, this function is declining in popularity as trademark applicants move to cheaper, more straightforward state-by-state registrations.

Representation

The PTO only allows certain qualified persons to practice before the PTO. Practice includes filing of patent applications on behalf of inventors, prosecuting patent applications on behalf of inventors, and participating in administrative appeals and other proceedings before the PTO examiners and boards. The PTO sets its own standards for who may practice and requires that any person who practices become registered. A patent agent is a person who has passed the USPTO registration examination
USPTO registration examination
In order to be registered as a patent agent or patent attorney in the United States, one must pass the United States Patent and Trademark Office registration examination, officially called the Examination for Registration to Practice in Patent Cases Before the United States Patent and Trademark...

 (the "patent bar") but has not passed any state bar exam to become a licensed attorney; a patent attorney is a person who has passed both a state bar and the patent bar and is in good standing as an attorney. A patent agent can only act in a representative capacity in patent matters presented to the USPTO, and may not represent a patent holder or applicant in a court of law. To be eligible for taking the patent bar exam, a candidate must possess a degree in "engineering or physical science or the equivalent of such a degree".

The United States allows any citizen from any country to sit for the patent bar (if he/she has the requisite technical background). Only Canada has a reciprocity agreement with the United States that confers upon a patent agent similar rights.

An unrepresented inventor may file a patent application and prosecute it on his or her own behalf (pro se). If it appears to a patent examiner that an inventor filing a pro se application is not familiar with the proper procedures of the Patent Office, the examiner may suggest that the filing party obtain representation by a registered patent attorney or patent agent. The patent examiner cannot recommend a specific attorney or agent, but the Patent Office does post a list of those who are registered.

While the inventor of a relatively simple-to-describe invention may well be able to produce an adequate specification and detailed drawings, there remains language complexity in what is claim
Claim (patent)
Patent claims are the part of a patent or patent application that defines the scope of protection granted by the patent. The claims define, in technical terms, the extent of the protection conferred by a patent, or the protection sought in a patent application...

ed, either in the particular claim language of a utility application, or in the manner in which drawings are presented in a design application. There is also skill required when searching for prior art that is used to support the application and to prevent applying for a patent for something that may be unpatentable. A patent examiner will make special efforts to help pro se inventors understand the process but the failure to adequately understand or respond to an Office action from the USPTO can endanger the inventor's rights, and may lead to abandonment of the application.

Electronic filing system

The USPTO will accept patent applications filed in electronic form. Inventors or their patent agents/attorneys can file applications as Adobe PDF
Portable Document Format
Portable Document Format is an open standard for document exchange. This file format, created by Adobe Systems in 1993, is used for representing documents in a manner independent of application software, hardware, and operating systems....

 documents. The web page for submitting applications is https://sportal.uspto.gov/secure/portal/efs-unregistered. Filing fees can be paid by credit card or by a USPTO "deposit account".

Electronic retrieval system

The USPTO web site provides free electronic copies of issued patents and patent applications as multiple-page TIFF (graphic) documents. The site also provides Boolean search and analysis tools.

The USPTO's free distribution service only distributes the patent documents as a set of TIFF files. Numerous free and commercial services provide patent documents in other formats, such as Adobe PDF and CPC
Cartesian Perceptual Compression
Cartesian Perceptual Compression is a proprietary image file format. It was designed for high compression of black-and-white raster Document Imaging for archival scans....

.

Criticisms

The USPTO has been criticized for granting patents for impossible or absurd, already known, or arguably obvious inventions.

Controversial patents

, "Method of exercising a cat
Method of exercising a cat
was granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on August 22, 1995 for a method of exercising a cat by getting it to follow a spot generated by a laser pointer. The patent has been taken as an example of a "goofy" , "seemingly absurd" or questionable patent justifying, in the...

", covers having a cat chase the beam from a laser pointer. The patent has been criticized as being obvious., "Sealed crustless sandwich
Sealed crustless sandwich
A sealed crustless sandwich is a type of sandwich which has a filling sealed between two layers of bread. The two layers of bread are crimped together to seal in the filling and the crust is removed. A popular variety is peanut butter and jelly....

", issued in 1999, covers the design of a sandwich with crimped edges. However, all claims of the patent were subsequently canceled by the PTO upon reexamination., "Hyper-light-speed antenna", an antenna that sends signals faster than the speed of light. According to the description in the patent, "The present invention takes a transmission of energy, and instead of sending it through normal time and space, it pokes a small hole into another dimension, thus, sending the energy through a place which allows transmission of energy to exceed the speed of light.", "Method of swinging on a swing", issued April 9, 2002 by patent examiner Kien T. Nguyen, was granted to a seven-year-old boy, whose father, a patent attorney, wanted to demonstrate how the patent system worked to his son (aged 5 at the time of the application). The PTO initially rejected it due to prior art, but eventually issued the patent. However, all claims of the patent were subsequently canceled by the PTO upon reexamination., "Space vehicle propelled by the pressure of inflationary vacuum state", describes an anti-gravity
Anti-gravity
Anti-gravity is the idea of creating a place or object that is free from the force of gravity. It does not refer to the lack of weight under gravity experienced in free fall or orbit, or to balancing the force of gravity with some other force, such as electromagnetism or aerodynamic lift...

 device. In November 2005, the USPTO was criticized by physicists for granting it. The journal Nature
Nature (journal)
Nature, first published on 4 November 1869, is ranked the world's most cited interdisciplinary scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports...

first highlighted this patent issued for a device that presumably amounts to a perpetual motion
Perpetual motion
Perpetual motion describes hypothetical machines that operate or produce useful work indefinitely and, more generally, hypothetical machines that produce more work or energy than they consume, whether they might operate indefinitely or not....

 machine, defying the laws of physics. The device comprises a particular electrically superconducting
Superconductivity
Superconductivity is a phenomenon of exactly zero electrical resistance occurring in certain materials below a characteristic temperature. It was discovered by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes on April 8, 1911 in Leiden. Like ferromagnetism and atomic spectral lines, superconductivity is a quantum...

 shield and electromagnetic generating device. The examiner allowed the claims because the design of the shield and device was novel and not obvious. In situations such as this where a substantial question of patentability
Patentability
Within the context of a national or multilateral body of law, an invention is patentable if it meets the relevant legal conditions to be granted a patent...

 is raised after a patent issues, the Commissioner of the Patent Office can order a reexamination
Reexamination
In United States patent law, a reexamination is a process whereby a third party or inventor can have a patent reexamined by a patent examiner to verify that the subject matter it claims is patentable...

 of the patent.

Controversial trademarks

, "Cloud Computing
Cloud computing
Cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility over a network ....

" for Dell
Dell
Dell, Inc. is an American multinational information technology corporation based in 1 Dell Way, Round Rock, Texas, United States, that develops, sells and supports computers and related products and services. Bearing the name of its founder, Michael Dell, the company is one of the largest...

, covering "custom manufacture of computer hardware for use in data centers and mega-scale computing environments for others", was allowed by a trademark attorney on July 8, 2008. Cloud computing is a generic term that could define technology infrastructure for years to come, which had been in general use at the time of the application. The application was rejected on August 12, 2008 as descriptive and generic., "Netbook
Netbook
Netbooks are a category of small, lightweight, legacy-free, and inexpensive laptop computers.At their inception in late 2007 as smaller notebooks optimized for low weight and low cost — netbooks omitted certain features , featured smaller screens and keyboards, and offered reduced computing...

" for Psion, covering "laptop computers" was registered on November 21, 2000. Although the company discontinued the netBook line in November 2003 and allowed the trademark to become genericized through use by journalists and vendors (products marketed as 'netbooks' include the Dell Inspiron Mini Series
Dell Inspiron Mini Series
The Dell Inspiron Mini Series was a line of subnotebook/netbook computers designed by Dell. The series was introduced in September 2008 amidst the growing popularity of low-cost netbook computers introduced by competitors, and now consists of the Inspiron Mini 10; with the numbers representing the...

, Asus
ASUS
ASUSTeK Computer Incorporated is a multinational computer technology and consumer electronics product manufacturer headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan. Its product range includes motherboards, desktops, laptops, monitors, tablet PCs, servers and mobile phones...

 eeePC, HP Mini 1000
HP Mini 1000
The HP Mini 1000 is a netbook by HP, adapting that company's HP 2133 Mini-Note PC education/business netbook for the consumer market. A similar but cheaper model named the HP Compaq Mini 700 will also be available in some regions with different cosmetics. A special edition machine named the Digital...

, MSI Wind Netbook
MSI Wind Netbook
The MSI Wind Notebook is a family of subnotebooks / netbooks designed by Micro-Star International . Wind stands for "Wi-Fi Network Device". The first model was announced at CeBIT 2008, and first listed for pre-orders on May 9, 2008. While initially 8.9- and 10.1-inch screen versions existed, as...

 and others), USPTO subsequently rejected a number of trademarks citing a "likelihood of confusion" under section 2(d), including 'G NETBOOK' ( rejected October 31, 2008), MSI
Micro-Star International
Micro-Star International Co., Ltd is a Taiwan-based electronics company and one of the world's largest motherboard and video card manufacturers.-Overview:MSI is one of the top three motherboard and video card manufacturers worldwide...

's 'WIND NETBOOK' and Coby Electronics' 'COBY NETBOOK' ( rejected January 13, 2009. Psion also delivered a batch of cease and desist letters on December 23, 2008 relating to the genericized trademark
Genericized trademark
A genericized trademark is a trademark or brand name that has become the colloquial or generic description for, or synonymous with, a general class of product or service, rather than as an indicator of source or affiliation as intended by the trademark's holder...

.

Slow patent examination and backlog

The USPTO has been criticized for taking an inordinate amount of time in examining patent applications. This is particularly true in the fast growing area of business method patent
Business method patent
Business method patents are a class of patents which disclose and claim new methods of doing business. This includes new types of e-commerce, insurance, banking, tax compliance etc. Business method patents are a relatively new species of patent and there have been several reviews investigating the...

s. As of 2005, patent examiners in the business method area were still examining patent applications filed in 2001.

The delay was attributed by spokesmen for the Patent Office to a combination of a sudden increase in business method patent filings after the 1998 State Street Bank decision, the unfamiliarity of patent examiners with the business and financial arts (e.g., banking, insurance
Insurance
In law and economics, insurance is a form of risk management primarily used to hedge against the risk of a contingent, uncertain loss. Insurance is defined as the equitable transfer of the risk of a loss, from one entity to another, in exchange for payment. An insurer is a company selling the...

, stock trading etc.), and the issuance of a number of controversial patents (e.g., "Amazon one click patent
1-Click
1-Click, also called one-click or one-click buying, is the technique of allowing customers to make online purchases with a single click, with the payment information needed to complete the purchase already entered by the user previously. More particularly, it allows an online shopper using an...

") in the business method area.

Effective in August 2006, the USPTO introduced an accelerated patent examination procedure
Petition to make special
In United States patent law, a petition to make special is a formal request submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office asking that a patent application be examined ahead of the other pending applications in the same technological art.- Background and rationale :Normally patent...

 in an effort to allow inventors a speedy evaluation of an application with a final disposition within twelve months. The procedure requires additional information to be submitted with the application and also includes an interview with the examiner. The first accelerated patent was granted on March 15, 2007 with a 6 month issuance time.

As of the end of 2008, there were 1,208,076 patent applications pending at the Patent Office. At the end of 1997, the number of pending applications pending was 275,295. Therefore, over those eleven years there was a 439% increase in the number of pending applications.

See also

Directors of the USPTO
1. List of persons who have headed the United States Patent Office
...
u. Bruce Lehman
Bruce Lehman
Bruce A. Lehman served from August 5, 1993 through 1998 as the United States Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Commissioner of the United States Patent and Trademark Office . Nominated by President Bill Clinton on April 23, 1993, and confirmed by the United States Senate on...

(1993–1998)
v. Q. Todd Dickinson
Q. Todd Dickinson
Q. Todd Dickinson is the former Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office...

(1998–2001)
w. James E. Rogan
James E. Rogan
James Edward Rogan is a judge of the Superior Court of California, a law professor, an author, and a former Member of the United States House of Representatives from California...

(December 2001 - 2004)
x. Jon Dudas
Jon Dudas
Jonathan W. Dudas served as Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office until January 18, 2009. He was nominated to the position by former President George W. Bush in March 2004 and appointed in July 2004...

(2004 - January 2009)
y. John J. Doll
John J. Doll
John J. Doll was the Acting United States Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Acting director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office since the resignation of Jon W. Dudas on January 20, 2009. Before that, he was Commissioner for Patents at the USPTO...

(January 2009 - August 2009) (acting)
z. David J. Kappos
David Kappos
David "Dave" J. Kappos is the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office . Prior to being confirmed to this post by the U.S. Senate on August 7, 2009, Kappos was the vice president and assistant general counsel, intellectual...

(August 2009–present)

  • Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences
    Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences
    The Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences is an administrative law body of the United States Patent and Trademark Office , which decides issues of patentability. The Chief Administrative Patent Judge is James Donald Smith.-Structure:...

     (BPAI)
  • Confederate Patent Office
    Confederate Patent Office
    The Confederate Patent Office was the agency of the Confederate States of America charged with issuing patents on inventions. The Chief Clerk during its entire existence was Rufus R...

  • Ex Parte Quayle
    Ex Parte Quayle
    Ex parte Quayle, 25 USPQ 74, 1935 C.D. 11; 453 O.G. 213 is a United States patent law decision. When a patent application is in condition for allowance, prosecution on the merits is closed. At this time, further amendments of the patent application are allowed only to correct formal objections,...

  • Google Patents
    Google Patents
    Google Patents is a search engine from Google that indexes patents and patent applications from the United States Patent and Trademark Office , which are taken from the original USPTO database . All 8 million patents have been put in the database. Optical character recognition has been...

  • History of United States patent law
    History of United States patent law
    "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;" From the United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 8....

  • Invention Secrecy Act
    Invention Secrecy Act
    The Invention Secrecy Act of 1951, codified at , is a body of United States federal law designed to prevent disclosure of new inventions and technologies that, in the opinion of selected federal agencies, present a possible threat to the national security of the United States.The U.S...

  • NASA spinoff
    NASA Spinoff
    A NASA spin-off is a spin-off of technology that has been commercialized through NASA funding, research, licensing, facilities, or assistance. NASA also publishes an annual journal titled Spinoff which features products whose development can be linked to NASA, for example through NASA funding ,...

  • National Inventors Hall of Fame
    National Inventors Hall of Fame
    The National Inventors Hall of Fame is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recognizing, honoring and encouraging invention and creativity through the administration of its programs. The Hall of Fame honors the men and women responsible for the great technological advances that make human,...

  • Old Patent Office Building
    Old Patent Office Building
    The historic Old Patent Office Building in Washington, D.C. covers an entire city block defined by F and G Streets and 7th and 9th Streets NW in Chinatown. After undergoing extensive renovations, the building reopened on July 1, 2006 and was renamed The Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art...

  • Patent office
    Patent office
    A patent office is a governmental or intergovernmental organization which controls the issue of patents. In other words, "patent offices are government bodies that may grant a patent or reject the patent application based on whether or not the application fulfils the requirements for...

  • Patent Office Professional Association
    Patent Office Professional Association
    The Patent Office Professional Association is a professional union of United States patent examiners. It was formed in 1964....

     (POPA)
  • John Ruggles
    John Ruggles
    John Ruggles was an American politician from the U.S. state of Maine. He served in several important state legislative and judicial positions before serving in the U.S. Senate....

  • Science and technology in the United States
    Science and technology in the United States
    The United States came into being around the Age of Enlightenment , a period in which writers and thinkers rejected the superstitions of the past. Instead, they emphasized the powers of reason and unbiased inquiry, especially inquiry into the workings of the natural world...

  • Technological history of the United States
  • Term of patent in the United States
    Term of patent in the United States
    In the United States, under current patent law, the term of patent, provided that maintenance fees are paid on time, are:* For applications filed on or after June 8, 1995, the patent term is 20 years from the filing date of the earliest U.S...

  • Timeline of United States discoveries
    Timeline of United States discoveries
    Timeline of United States discoveries encompasses the breakthroughs of human thought and knowledge of new scientific findings, phenomena, places, things, and what was previously unknown to exist...

  • Timeline of United States inventions
    Timeline of United States inventions
    The following articles cover the timeline of United States inventions* Timeline of United States inventions * Timeline of United States inventions * Timeline of United States inventions...

  • Trademark Trial and Appeal Board
    Trademark Trial and Appeal Board
    The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board is a body within the United States Patent and Trademark Office responsible for hearing and deciding certain kinds of cases involving trademarks. These include appeals from decisions by USPTO Examiners denying registration of marks, and opposition proceedings...

     (TTAB)
  • Trilateral Patent Offices
  • United States patent law
    United States patent law
    United States patent law was established "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;" as provided by the United States Constitution. Congress implemented these...

  • Yankee ingenuity
    Yankee ingenuity
    Yankee ingenuity is an American English reference to the self-reliance of early colonial settlers of New England, United States. It describes an attitude of make-do with materials on hand. It is inventive improvisation, adaptation and overcoming of dire straits when faced with a dearth of...


External links

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