Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Think The Way They Search - Installment 2

More on classifications and why they can help you learn to Think the Way USPTO Searches and how they think about what's in a patent.

In our first installment we talked about the Original or Primary classification on a patent or application respectively. This is the classification that appears in BOLD on in the US CL section of the patent or application. This classification determines which Group Art Unit at USPTO is going to examine your patent.

But what do the other classifications tell you? They are supposed to give you insight into rest of the inventive art that is disclosed in a patent or application. The classifications tell you what USPTO believes is in your patent or application is all about.

When the patents are classified, the person looking at the patent looks at every claim. Every single claim. They classify each claim independently and then pick the controlling claim which in turn determines which class/subclass pair will be the primary or Original classification.

Once that's done, they assemble the rest of the class/subclass data they created by classifying each claim and then create the mandatory classifications - the rest of the classes that appear to the right of the classification in BOLD on the front page of a patent or application. These classes describe the rest of the inventive art in the patent.

If you look at patent 5,960,411, Method and System for Placing a Purchase Order Via a Communications Network - the Amazon One Click Patent, it has three classifications.

705/26 - Electronic Shopping (e.g., remote ordering): ...enabling a user to inspect or select from a plurality of different items, or effect a purchase of one or more items at location geographically separated from the system user. This is the Original Classification that appears in BOLD.

This subclass is indented under Automated Electrical Financial or Business Practice or Management Arrangement (705/1). So it requires that the invention use an electrical apparatus and its methods which perform data processing operations.

705/27 - This class is indented under 705/26. This invention also includes presentation of image or description of sales items (e.g., electronic catelog browsing.) The invention includes the ability to inspect a listing or other visual or audiable representations of plural items available for purchase.

345/962 - The final classification is in Class 345 - Computer Graphics Processing ad Selective Visual Display Systems. This class appears on the image of the patent. It also appears on the Google Patents version of the patent above. And here is the rub. This class was abolished and replaced somewhere along the line. So, if you are looking at the image or the data on Google Patents you are not getting the correct information.

The USPTO full text database shows the final classification on the One Click patent as 715/962. This is an operator interface with visual structure or function dictated by the intended use. In particular it calls for a system with an operator interface for marketing and sales. To be in this class the invention will include features "wherein the given task is a commercial function involving user response."

So based on the claims, that's what USPTO says this patent is all about. Claim 6 is provided as an example. For anyone who has been following it or is licensing it this patent covers: (Comments in RED)

6. A client system for ordering an item comprising:

an identifier that identifies a customer; (this is the part where the system knows who you are and has stored info about you.)

a display component for displaying information identifying the item; (this is the part where you can see the items for sale.)

a single-action ordering component that in response to performance of only a single action, sends a request to a server system to order the identified item, the request including the identifier so that the server system can locate additional information needed to complete the order and so that the server system can fulfill the generated order to complete purchase of the item; and (Single-action - the one click part)

a shopping cart ordering component that in response to performance of an add-to-shopping-cart action, sends a request to the server system to add the item to a shopping cart. (the electronic shopping cart)

As anyone who's used Amazon's One Click feature, bought a song on iTunes, or ordered a pay per view movie with their remote control, what this is really about is being able to order an item using a single action where only a single action is required to complete the sale because the system already knows who you are.

I'm sure our business methods guys will be able to shine some light on how the reclassification of the Business Methods section of the classification schedule, Class 705. But in the meantime this gives you a feel for how to use the classifications to see what USPTO thinks a patent is about. When you load your invention disclosure into Cognition IP we return the patents that are the closest as well as the class they are in. It helps you figure out where your work might wind up.

So the classifications got you close but you are going to have to look at the patents in that space, the ones assigned those classifications, to figure out what has already been invented and the boundaries of what would be novel invention in light of what is already classified.

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