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End of “First to Invent”?

In each of the last several year, bills aimed at “reforming” the patent system have been proposed.  Today (February 28), the Senate is scheduled for an up-or-down vote on the Patent Reform Act of 2011.

Although there are some good things in the bill, the bill fails to address the main problems with the patent system — and that includes, particularly, fee diversion from the Patent Office to the other parts of the government.

Moreover, the bill would  effectively do away with the concept of “first to invent” — as opposed to first to file — which would hurt individual inventors and small companies.  Changing to first to file would mean that the person who files first would get the patent (assuming the invention was patentable).  This would discourage inventors from sharing their invention with larger entities for fear that they end up in somebody else’s patent application. 

Green Technology Pilot Program

I have mentioned in the past that it is possible, in certain cases, to have examination of a patent application accelerated by filing an appropriate petition. The most common reason for accelerating an application is that at least one of the inventors is over age 65 or in poor health. However, there are ways to have an application made special based on subject matter which the Patent Office has decided is especially important to the nation. In this post, I will discuss the Patent Office’s Green Technology Pilot Program. Under the Green Technology Pilot Program,an application can be advanced out of turn (accorded special status) for examination, if it is directed to green technologies including greenhouse gas reduction (applications pertaining to environmental quality, energy conservation, development of renewable energy resources or greenhouse gas emission reduction).

To have the Patent Office consider an application for the Green Technology Pilot Program, it is necessary to file a petition including a statement as to the basis for making the application special under the program.  As an example, an application directed to a more fuel efficient motor might be allowed under the category of “energy conservation”.  At present, no petition fee is required. According to the Patent Office, in several cases, patent applications under the program were allowed within one year of the filing date. The program is set to expire at the end of 2011 (unless renewed) or when the first 3,000 petitions under the program have been granted.

As of February 21, 2,553 petitions have been filed under the program.  1,332 petitions have been granted, 825 were dismissed and 172 were denied. There are currently 224 petitions currently waiting decision. 195 patents have issued under the program.  This means that time is running out.. and it is advisable to review any pending patent application that might be eligible under the program, and file that petition as soon as possible.


There’s a new website that that will likely become one of the primary resources for inventors. It is called, simply, Inventor Notes (the URL is  I urge everyone to check it out.

Created by veteran inventor and licensing expert, Stephen Key, the web site bills itself as “the one-stop website for all things inventing”. It is particularly strong on providing information and advice on every aspect of the invention process. For instance, under the “expert” tab, there is a long list of experts in the field of patent law, product design, marketing, licensing, and even public relations. Another particularly strong feature of Inventor Notes is the “Inventions Wanted” tab which lists more than a hundred companies that may be looking for new inventions, particularly from individual inventors.

Note: I spoke with Mr. Key on the phone a few days ago, and learned that he will be speaking in the Phoenix area in April at the Inventors Association of Arizona. This will certainly be an interesting and informative presentation.

Tactical Knife Capable of Trapping and Cutting an Opponent’s Limb

One of the most interesting patent applications that I have had the pleasure drafting was for a tactical knife by an inventor named Craig Garrison.  It has now published as patent application no. 2011/0010949.  This particular knife can trap a person’s limb between the two sharp points. There are five cutting surfaces, including three between the points. Needless to say, one would not want to be on the receiving end. The following video describes the invention. The inventor’s email address is

Accused Russian Spy Anna Chapman to Trademark Her Name

Flag of Russia

The Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda is reporting that the sultry Anna Chapman, deported from the United States for being a Russian spy, has filed for a trademark on her name. It was reported that she wishes to use it for, among other things, a brand of vodka. No news on whether she wishes to market this vodka in the US or wishes to apply here for a trademark.

What is the Internet, Anyway?

The above conversation took place in 1994, before most people had heard of the Internet…

From time to time, the Patent Office is criticized for allowing patents on inventions that are supposedly obvious. But it is important to understand that what seems obvious today, may not have yesterday.

Case in point is Amazon’s One Click Patent.  That patent was filed in 1997.  What was the state of e commerce in 1997?

That is one of the key questions to be answered.. and is, in fact, required of an examiner to make in considering whether to apply an obviousness rejection.

Many things look obvious in hindsight… but were highly inventive when first conceived of.

Palin’s Trademark Application Rejected

It is not uncommon for a celebrity to trademark their own name.  And, guess who is trying to register their names?  None other than Sarah Palin and daughter, Bristol Palin, who filed for trademarks for the respective names. . Sarah Palin’s application sets forth that her name will be used in commerce in connection with motivational speaking services.  Only problem so far: the Palins didn’t provide consent by signing the form.  However, it is likely that the rejection will be overcome.