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Sunday, 2 November 2003


According to The Register the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has called for the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to apply tougher standards in granting patents and has urged Congress to establish a mechanism to permit companies to challenge patents more easily. The current US practice of allowing patents for business methods (for example the Amazon One Click patent) has generated controversy in the IT business and indeed beyond it. “There is widespread concern about patent quality and that means there is widespread concern that there are patents out there that shouldn’t be issued”, said FTC chairman Timothy Muris.

Recognising the strain which an estimated 300,000 patent applications a year place on USPTO staff, the FTC is calling for increased funding which will allow the agency to tackle a two-year long backlog. The FTC would also like a procedure to be established for enabling rivals to challenge a patent without resorting to costly litigation, as well as the introduction of a lower burden of proof for the invalidation of any patent.

The IPKat welcomes the FTC’s proposals. US patents for business methods have provoked anxiety in US trade circles and ridicule in Europe, particularly where the invention appeared to be nothing other than the performance of an existing business method by means of a computer. As for extra funding, the IPKat recalls that charges have been made for some years that IP filing fees have been appropriated for the subsidy of non-IP activities. It would be good to know that all money collected from patent and trade mark applicants and owners actually went into funding the USPTO’s operations.

Diversion of US patent fees here and here
State Street: the respectable face of US patents for business methods here and here
Monkey business methods here, here, here and here

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