Japanese industrial designer Kenji Ekuan died a few days ago at the age of 85. Ekuan designed hundreds of products but is best known for creating the red-capped Kikkoman soy sauce dispenser in 1961, followed by the Yamaha VMAS motorcycle and Komachi bullet train. He also designed snowmobiles (US D216389) for Yamaha and computers (US D282844) for Epson.
The USPTO issued 326,076 patents in 2014, an increase of 6.7 percent over 2013, and published 380,457 utility and plant patent applications, up 9.6 percent. The total number of U.S. patent documents published in 2014 increased to 706,553, another all-time high. Table 1 shows the number of documents by type.
Table 1. US Patents by Type Issued in 2014*
*Based on preliminary data from the USPTO website. Totals may change after the fact due to withdrawn patents and published applications.
The USPTO is rapidly approaching the 9,000,000 mark for utility patents. At the current rate of about 5,700 utility patents per week, it is likely that patent no. 9,000,000 will be issued in March or April of 2015.
The number of Statutory Invention Registrations declined to 6 from 13, a drop of 53.8 percent. The USPTO abolished SIRs in 2013.
Table 2. US Patent Number Ranges, Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2014
The IP5 patent offices (China, Europe, Japan, Korea and the US) have released their annual patent statistics report for 2013. In 2013, more than 2.1 million patent applications were filed in the IP5 offices, an increase of 11 percent over 2012. The number of granted patents increased to 956,644, up 4 percent over 2012.
Ralph H. Baer, inventor of the first home video game system, recently passed away at the age of 92. A television engineer by training, Baer had a vision in 1966 of an interactive gaming system that could be used with any television set. With the support of his employer, Baer perfected his system and patented it in 1972 (US 3,659,285). A second patent issued in 1973 (US 3,728,480) was the subject of much litigation in the 1970s and 1980s. Baer’s “Television Gaming Apparatus” launched the video game industry that today has annual revenues of more than $80 billion worldwide.
Baer eventually received 45 U.S. patents and dozens more in other countries. His first two video game patents have been cited in approximately 180 US patents. Video games are classified in the CPC under A63F 13/00 and its subgroups, which contain more than 36,000 patent documents.
An earlier version of a video (but not television) game was invented in 1957 by Luther Simjian of Greenwich, Connecticut. Simjian’s “Golf Game” (US 2,783,999) used a combined computing and projection system to simulate the distance and trajectory of a golf ball in flight.
As of December 3, 2014 German full-text patent documents (published applications and patents) published from 1987 forward are now available in PatentScope. In addition, German utility models from 1999 forward are also available. Approximately 4.5 million older full-text documents were uploaded but not indexed due to poor OCR data. However, these documents do appear to be searchable to some extent.
Earlier this year the WIPO added the patent collection of the Eurasian Patent Organization (EAPO). EAPO consists of the Russian Federation and eight countries formerly part of the Soviet Union.
With the addition of these two patent office collections, PatentScope contains approximately 43 million patent documents.
Dr. S. Donald Stookey, inventor of synthetic ceramic glass, died on November 4 at the age of 99 (New York Times, Nov. 6). Dr. Stookey joined Corning in 1940 as a research scientist and spent the next four decades working on glass chemistry. In the 1950s, he accidentally discovered and patented (US 2779136) a method for making glass that could withstand extreme temperatures, the perfect material for use in dishes and casseroles. In 1958, Corning launched its CorningWare line of dishes.
During his 47-year career, Dr. Stookey was granted approximately 60 patents but only published about 19 journal articles. This demonstrates the important role that patents play in disseminating the results of industrial research. Dr. Stookey’s patents have been cited in hundreds of patents and journal articles.
The Lawyers Collective, a public service interest group in India, has compiled a searchable drug patent status information database for key medicines. The list currently includes about twenty drugs containing information from the following sources.
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration (USFDA)
- Drug Controller General of India (DCGI)
- Espacenet (European Patent Office)
- European Medicines Agency (EMEA)
- Indian Patent Office
- U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
- PatentScope (World Intellectual Property Office)