Sunday, 17 June 2012

Patent Prosecution Highway

The Patents Prosecution Highway is properly marketed as being a program that can result in fast examination for those applications that can take advantage. However there is a good deal of false marketing on the basis that it assists in handling the backlog.

Few usable statistics are available – largely because few applicants take advantage. The best source is the statistics page on the Patents Prosecution Highway portal.

The statistics show a major reduction in the time to first office action, and time to final decision. This shows that the offices participating take the program seriously. With the low number of participating applications, it is not too hard for the participating countries to handle the cases.

However, the portal also shows some irrelevant statistics. The grant rate and first action allowance rate for PPH cases is shown in comparison with the general rates for the countries concerned. It is this that has caused some unnecessary excitement as to whether the program can affect backlogs in examination.

It is hardly surprising that if an application has been found patentable by one examiner, it will have a higher chance of being found patentable by another examiner. To determine whether PPH has any positive effect would require comparing those cases that could participate in PPH but didn’t; with those that could and did

However at present, the presentation of the grant rate and first action allowance rate on the PPH portal is largely meaningless. Re-shuffling the queue does not necessarily change the length of the queue.

Of course, if the shuffling is done in a way that persuades some people to leave the queue, that might help.  How about reverse PPH – if you have no claims found allowable at the office of first filing, you go to the back of the queue?

Friday, 8 June 2012

In Memoriam Ray Bradbury [1920-2012]

 [Loosely in the style of Something Wicked This Way Comes]

It was high summer in the fairground and the manager was concerned.  The rumble in the distance was not thunder, but the grumbles of those queuing for the fair rides. The queues grew longer, the crowd more restless, the grumbles more constant. He shivered.

Since a disastrous and unmentionable accident, State law had required that every person entering a ride be checked to ensure that they were over adult height: a minimum height of 4 foot.   At the entrance to each ride, potential customers were checked for their height and this introduced an inevitable delay.   Or was it inevitable?  

The fairground manager had had a brilliant idea.  Once a person passed the height check at the first ride, he would be given a pass entitled a "person passes height” (PPH) pass.  This PPH pass would permit the user to go to the head of the queue at another ride.  Surely this would speed matters up, thought the fairground manager.  

However he soon found that this was not the case.   The queues waiting for each ride did not shrink and became full of those who were too short to pass at a different ride but thought they might stand a chance at this one; and of those who were new to the theme park and hadn’t taken a ride on anything yet.  Where did the problem lie?     

There – there - there!! Each ride operator considered themself responsible for ensuring that their customers pass the State test, and was not willing to take the word of another ride owner.   Even though a customer had a PPH, their height was still checked.  

Said one of the ride operators:

“Like other operators I am very happy to let customers with a PPH go to the head of the queue, since I have been told that statistically they are far more likely to pass the height test than the customers at large.  

However I could not possibly trust the word of another ride owner in this matter.  
It seems to me that each ride uses a different measure to test the height of the customers, and indeed each ride operator uses the measure differently [some with shoes on, some with shoes off, and so on].

State law requires that ride operators are responsible and so each of us is independently responsible for determining “infantive height.”     

Well, thought the fairground manager.  All I seem to have done with my PPH is to change the quality of the backlog and perhaps increase the level of complaint from those in the backlog.   Nothing will really change until I can persuade the individual ride managers to accept at least in part the word of another ride manager, or persuade those who do not pass the test at one ride not to try at another.

The fairground manager looked at the operator: the operator looked at the manager. They shivered in mutual recognition.


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Typical patent fees

There is much nonsense talked about the relative costs of patenting in Europe, USA and Asia. There are cost differentials but for the normal user of the system these are not huge. Officialdom is particularly liable to exaggeration.

For a pungent and pointed commentary on officialdom's inclinations see this CIPA press release.