Some facts about the US patent system ⚓

The New York Times has published a very good article about the patent system three days ago. This is the kind of article you read only once every one or two years. You should go read the full piece.

Meanwhile, for the lazy ones, I’m sharing my personal extracts. Here are some interesting facts pointed out in the article. Consider this the TL;DR version ;-)

Enlarge your patentz!

  • 2009-2011: $20 billion was spent on patent litigation and patent purchases.
    In 2011, for Apple and Google, this spending exceeded spending on research and development. #

    In the smartphone industry alone, according to a Stanford University analysis, as much as $20 billion was spent on patent litigation and patent purchases in the last two years — an amount equal to eight Mars rover missions. Last year, for the first time, spending by Apple and Google on patent lawsuits and unusually big-dollar patent purchases exceeded spending on research and development of new products, according to public filings.

  • 2001-2011: the number of patents filed each year in the US has increased by more than 50%. #

    The number of patent applications, computer-related and otherwise, filed each year at the United States patent office has increased by more than 50 percent over the last decade to more than 540,000 in 2011. Google has received 2,700 patents since 2000, according to the patent analysis firm M-CAM. Microsoft has received 21,000.

  • 2001-2011: the number of patents filed each year in the US by Apple has risen “almost tenfold.” #

    “Even if we knew it wouldn’t get approved, we would file the application anyway,” the former Apple lawyer said in an interview. “If nothing else, it prevents another company from trying to patent the idea.” […] In the last decade, the number of patent applications submitted by Apple each year has risen almost tenfold. The company has won ownership of pinching a screen to zoom in, of using magnets to affix a cover to a tablet computer and of the glass staircases in Apple stores. It has received more than 4,100 patents since 2000, according to M-CAM.

    Privately, Mr. Jobs gathered his senior managers. While Apple had long been adept at filing patents, when it came to the new iPhone, “we’re going to patent it all,” he declared, according to a former executive who, like other former employees, requested anonymity because of confidentiality agreements.

  • 1990-2010: the number of patent lawsuits filed each year in the US has tripled. #

    The number of patent lawsuits filed in United States district courts each year has almost tripled in the last two decades to 3,260 in 2010, the last year for which federal data is available. Microsoft has sued Motorola; Motorola has sued Apple and Research in Motion; Research in Motion has sued Visto, a mobile technology company; and in August, Google, through its Motorola unit, sued Apple, contending that Siri had infringed on its patents. (Google dropped the suit last week, leaving open the possibility of refiling at a later date.) All of those companies have also been sued numerous times by trolls.

It’s always worth filing for a patent anyway for big corporations

  • In the smartphone industry, patents add as much as 20% to research and development costs. #

    Patents for software and some kinds of electronics, particularly smartphones, are now so problematic that they contribute to a so-called patent tax that adds as much as 20 percent to companies’ research and development costs, according to a study conducted last year by two Boston University professors.

  • A new patent application gets allotted about 23 hours for reviewing. The US patent office has 7,650 examiners for 540,000 applications in 2011. #

    In the next two years, a small cast of officials spent about 23 hours — the time generally allotted for reviewing a new application — examining the three dozen pages before recommending rejection. […] Officials pointed out that the agency’s 7,650 examiners received more than half a million applications last year, and the numbers have kept climbing.

  • (Keep trying until no becomes yes) About 70% of patent applications are approved after the applicant altered claims. #

    On its 10th attempt, Apple got patent 8,086,604 approved. […] All the while, the application traveled quietly through the patent office, where officials rejected it twice in 2007, three times in 2008, once in 2009, twice in 2010 and once in 2011. […] After patent 8,086,604 was first rejected in 2007, Apple’s lawyers made small adjustments to the application, changing the word “documents” to “items of information” and inserting the phrase “heuristic modules” to refer to bits of software code. A few years later, the inclusion of the word “predetermined” further narrowed Apple’s approach.

    Though submitting an application repeatedly can incur large legal fees, it is often effective. About 70 percent of patent applications are eventually approved after an applicant has altered claims, tinkered with language or worn down the patent examiners.

Update: Removed the iPhone-fact for lack of good source.

3 réponses à “Some facts about the US patent system

  1. […] So even software patents proponents admit this. It is important as it helps weaken their position. There is an anonymous account on Twitter which took the hastag swpats and currently uses it to promote software patents. The Financial Post and patent lawyers do not agree with the New York Times piece that Hugo of the FSFE summarises. […]

  2. Hugo Roy dit :

    Classement 2012 des brevets aux US.

    – 1er pour la 20e année d’affilée: IBM.
    – pour la première année, Google dans le top50
    – Apple a déposé 15 brevets de moins que Google en 2012

  3. […] Those who think 2012 was the year of all records regarding patents¹ might want to think again. There is a trend here. […]