Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Business Methods Monday - Digital Rights

Business Methods Monday: Part 5, Class 705 Schedule Changes, Classification Order 1892

This installment to “Business Methods Monday” is part 5 of a 5 part series covering changes to Class 705 under Classification Order 1892. As noted previously, this revised Schedule was inserted by the USPTO between Subclass 705/45 and 705/400, with the exception of Digital Rights Management, 705/901-912, which is for cross-reference Discretionary classification listings only and under discussed here. This section of the Schedule is included below for reference. As a reminder, anything classified in Class 705 must involve apparatus or method applied to data processing operations applied to some type of business processes.

For the complete Schedule and Definitions for 300 through 348, use this link to get to the Classification Order. As the USPTO has now updated their website Classification Main Menu, you can access the complete Class 705 Schedule and Definitions, which includes the 300 through 348 arrays from the Classification Order by use of this link.


902 . Licensing digital content

903 .. Adding plural layer of rights or limitations by other than the original producer

904 . Usage protection of distributed files

905 .. Hardware usage protection

906 .. Requiring a supplemental attachment or input (e.g., dongle, etc.) to open

907 ... Specific computer ID (e.g., serial number, configuration, etc.)

908 .. Software or content usage protection

909 .. Usage charge determination

910 ... Including third party for collecting or distributing payment (e.g., clearing house, etc.)

911 . Copy protection or prevention

912 .. Having origin or program ID

First, from the “Handbook of Classification”, a Discretionary classification is considered “secondary classifications based on non-inventive, but otherwise valuable, information are discretionary”. This is generally based on detail that is not directly claimed, but is disclosed in the Abstract, Description, Figures, etc., though I have seen cases where Discretionary classification is wisely applied for methodology, claim or otherwise, that one versed in the art knows is being employed and the listing will therefore be of value for future search purposes.

901 “DIGITAL RIGHTS MANAGEMENT” is defined as “Subject matter drawn to a system of information technology components (hardware and software) and services designed to distribute and control the rights to intellectual property created or reproduced in digital form for distribution online or via other digital media, in conjunction with corresponding law, policy, and business models.” Everything below this is finer detail applied to the distribution, protection of rights and methodology associated with revenue from the distribution. I am only going to hit the high points for this as the Definitions are pretty clear regarding content.

902 “Licensing digital content”, 904 “Usage protection of distributed files” covers various methodologies used to ensure that a user has been granted usage rights or means limiting access to specific users or devices by means of a required license key. Examples of this would be a license key for use of software, a key assigned to a server that is unique to a remote user allowing use of specific software or data when the user or the user’s device provided the key. In the case of the latter, this could be a key assigned to a removable device, see 906, which allows access to licensed software by the system the removable device is plugged into. In any of these cases, this could be for a determined time period. 909 and 910 provide for means for calculation charges for the data or software usage and means for distribution of the funds collected, here by a third party on behalf of the to the data or software owner. In 911” Copy protection or prevention”, this is means for limiting the number of times data can be copied.

As noted by both Mike and myself, there are serious Classification Order 1892 conflicts with subject matter higher in the 705 Schedule, most notably with 705/7 and 705/8. The USPTO “Handbook of Classification” specifies that a Claim is classified in the first occurring Subclass that accepts the Claimed subject matter at least in part or in whole. As noted previously, the conflicts with both 705/7 and 705/8 were pointed out during the Classification Order 1892 project to the USPTO, and again in relationship to another 705 Classification Order project, which as yet, has not been published.

For the record, the USPTO Examiners consider subject matter that belongs in 705/7 to be evaluation of business operations, i.e., research or analysis, which is applied to management, planning, organizing, directing, decision making or controlling of an enterprise. 705/8 subject matter is considered any of those operations of 705/7 that are further applied to business resource planning, scheduling, allocation, distribute or routing. Resources of a business are any asset or commodity used by or made by a business, such as staff including contracted staff, business capital and intellectual property such as patents, trademarks, and trade secrets, then hard assets, such as computers, servers, printers, office supplies, manufacturing tooling, inventory goods, inventory or product distribution systems, transportation assets, and finally, the manufactured products or services of a business. As noted in an earlier Blog, the above is based on direct conversations with various Class 705 Examiners regarding what they consider 705/7 and 705/8 subject matter, which is backed up by USPTO Patents and Applications classification in 705/7 and 705/8. The conflicts noted with both 705/7 and 705/8 were pointed out during the Classification Order 1892 project to the USPTO, and later still, in relationship to another 705 Classification Order project, which as noted, has not been published.

For the most of the subject matter Mike and I have discuss in the 300 through 348 arrays, the Primary or Original classification will stop somewhere in the 705/7 array. If there is subject matter that additionally claims detail in the 300 through 348 arrays, the applicable Subclass can only be listed as a Discretionary classification listing, assuming one does not ignore the USPTO’s own “Handbook of Classification” rules.

What needs to happen to fix the conflicts we have noted?

Well, at some point in time, the USPTO needs to restructure the entire Class 705 Schedule as a whole. According to the “Handbook of Classification”, the requirement is that; “subclasses are arranged from top-to-bottom in order of decreasing complexity and comprehensiveness”. That is not presently the case with the Class 705 Schedule as it exists. As the USPTO is operating in the red just like the rest of the US government, it is anyone’s guess as to when this may happen, if ever.

A piecemeal process is fine, the best case being starting with the proper top-to-bottom order of decreasing complexity and comprehensiveness in the Schedule to begin with. If that is hopefully the case, and even if it is not, procedurally you must understand the entire existing Class Schedule and each of the existing Subclass Definitions for allowed subject matter, either higher or lower in the Class that is not a part of the specific Classification Order project. If conflicts exist with any existing Subclass Definitions, the Classification Order Subclass and Definition under consideration must be revised, so that the conflict does not exist, and barring that, the considered subject matter is just flat out not allowed under the Classification Order. While undesirable for obvious reasons, if there are multiple Classification Order projects are underway within the same Class, then everyone on each of these projects must be in communication with one another and in complete agreement that there are no Subclass subject matter conflicts relative to each of the in-process Classification Order projects relative to any proposed Subclasses and Definitions and existing Subclass Definitions. Procedurally, when multiple Classification Order projects are in-process for a Class, the individual USPTO project managers for each project are responsible for oversight adherence to procedures, QA processes and required communication.

While the internal business procedures do actually exist in the USPTO for Classification Orders, Class Schedule structure, and classification based on claimed subject matter, there is also evidence of that there is no consistent adherence to, or enforcement of these internal business procedures, which is based in the condition of various Classes and further based on actual Patents and Patent Applications classifications Mike and I have reviewed and reclassified in this and other Classification Order projects. Documents appear to be placed wherever one seems to want them to be placed, subject matter not withstanding. The issues of database integrity and search-ability are obvious; documents that should be searched in the Patent Application review process are not where the claimed subject matter collection of prior art actually resides in the various Class Schedules. I have seen multiple cases where the Examiner never searched the Subclass arrays where the clearly claimed subject matter exist, and that is based on review of the Examiner’s published search history data. Aside from the latter calling into serious question the validity of the issued Patent, which was also misclassified, it compounds the problem for the next Examiner’s doing future examination reviews and searches.

Mike and I hope that those following this Blog series come away with a better understanding of Class 705 in general. Some of what has been presented should provoke some very serious thought for anyone involved in the process of applying for a Patent Application, and most particularly for those of you who hold an issued Patent or are involved in representing clients who hold an issued Patent.

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