IP5 Patent Statistics Report for 2013

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.

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Obit: Ralph H. Baer, Inventor of first home video game

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.

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PatentScope Adds German and Eurasian Patent Org. Collections

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.

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Obit: CorningWare Inventor Revolutionized Cooking

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.

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New Drug Patent Resource from the Lawyers Collective (India)

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)
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USPTO Report on Virtual Patent Marking

A new report from the USPTO discusses the effectiveness of virtual patent marking.

What is virtual patent marking? From the 1920s to 2011, U.S. patent law required patent owners to mark their products with the number or numbers of associated patents. Prior to the 1920s, patent owners were required to mark their products with the the date of the patent. The main purpose of this requirement was to inform the public that the product was patented. Marking also protects the patent owner’s right to recover damages in the case of infringement.

However, marking can be costly for patent owners. Some manufacturers claim that retooling molds and reprinting labels in order to add new patent numbers or remove expired patent numbers is too expensive. Marking also may be difficult if the product is very small or protected by a large number of patents.  Companies that continue making products marked with expired patent numbers risk steep fines for false marking.

The America Invents Act of 2011 attempts to address these problems by allowing patent owners to mark their products with a website address where information about associated patents is listed.

One of the long-term problems with virtual marking is that it could make it much more difficult to track down patents associated with a specific product that is no longer produced or from a company that no longer exists. For example, antique collectors often use patent numbers to identify and authenticate old tools, toys, utensils, machinery, etc.

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Entrepreneurs on Campus

The Globe and Mail has an interesting article about Canadian universities providing training and support to student entrepreneurs (Is University the Place to Learn to be an Entrepreneur?, Oct. 10). This reminded me of an earlier article in the New York Times about a U Penn student who designed a wireless battery recharging system for a campus innovation competition. (An Inventor Wants One Less Wire to Worry About, Aug. 10). She has filed patent applications in Canada, the U.S. and Europe for her wireless power transfer” system.

Entrepreneurship is a hot topic on campus these days. Countless student innovation competitions have sprung up all over North America. Among the best known are the Lemelson-MIT National Collegiate Student Prize. VentureWell (formerly the Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance) sponsors two competitions specifically aimed at biomedial and bioengineering students. Dozens of universities have started student business incubators and entrepreneurship and innovation centers.

Of course, students have been conceiving new products and businesses in their dorm rooms and library study carrels for decades. Here are just a few examples.

  • Bill Gates left Harvard in the mid-1970s in order to pursue his dream of starting a software company.
  • Michael Dell started Dell Inc. while attending the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, co-created the social networking service in his second year at Harvard.
  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin created the initial version of Google while Ph.D. students at Stanford.

There are no age or educational requirements for filing a patent application, of course. Children as young as three years of age are named inventors on patents. But no patent office that I know of tracks or reports the age or education level of patent applicants. It would be difficult to determine how many university-age inventors file patent applications in a given year and of those how many are active students.

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Scientists Receive Nobel Prize in Chemistry for Enhancing the Power of Microscopes

Three scientists, Eric Betzig of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stefan W. Hell of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Germany, and William E. Moerner of Stanford University, are the recipients of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy. Their technique allows optical microscopes to resolve extremely small structures within living cells, thus enabling researchers to observe molecular processes in great detail.

Dr. Betzig has received several patents related to microscopy (US8629413, US8718106, US8730573). Dr. Hell is listed as an inventor on nearly 100 patent applications; he received his first patent related to SRFM in 2011 (US7894067). Dr. Moerner’s related patents include US8693742.

Microscopes in general are classified in the CPC under G02B 21/00 and fluorescence microscopy is classified under G01N 21/00.

A number of Nobel Laureates have been honored for their contributions to microscopy.

In 1982, Aaron Klug received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in part for his work on the development of crystallographic electron microscopy. Several years later, in 1986, Ernst Ruska received the Nobel Prize in Physics for designing the first electron microscope in the 1930s. He patented his electron microscope in the U.S. (US2268539) and several other countries in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Dr. Ruska shared the prize with Gerd Binning and Heinrich Rohrer who were recognized for their design of a scanning tunneling microscope, which they patented in the early 1980s in the U.S. (US4343993) and elsewhere.

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Inventors of Blue LEDs Receive Nobel Prize in Physics

Isamu Akasaki of Meijo University and Nagoya University, Hiroshi Amano or Nagoya University and Shuji Nakamura of the University of California, Santa Barbara are the recipients of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics for inventing the blue light-emitting diode (LED) in the early 1990s. Blue LEDs combined with green and red LEDs produce white light, thus enabling the production of LED light bulbs. LED bulbs are much longer-lasting, up to one hundred times, and more energy-efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs.

Dr. Nakamura filed his first patent application for a “blue color light-emitting diode” in April 1991 and was granted a patent in 1998 (JP2791448 B2). Akasaki and Amano, who began collaborating in the late 1980s, filed their first joint patent application in 1989 for a method of manufacturing a gallium nitride semiconductor LED. Their patent issued in 1994 (JPH069257 B2). Collectively, Akasaki, Nakamura and Amano are the named inventors on dozens of patent applications and authors of hundreds of journal articles.

LEDs are classified in H01L 33/00. According to Espacenet, more than 96,000 patent documents are classified under this code.

The incandescent bulb was developed in the 1870s and perfected by Thomas Edison in 1879 (US 223 898), launching the electrification of the world. For over a century incandescent lighting was the dominant form of lighting in most countries. Today, incandescent bulbs have been replaced in large part by LED bulbs.

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Korean Patent Office Adopts Cooperative Patent Classification System

The USPTO and KIPO announced today that starting in January 2015 the KIPO will classify its patent applications and utility models under the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system. Korea ranks fourth after China, the U.S. and Japan in the number of patent applications filed annually.

The USPTO and EPO have been developing the CPC, which is based on the International Patent Classification (IPC) and the European Classification (ECLA) systems, since 2010.

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