Sunday, November 27, 2011

Patent Pending Pipeline Prognostication

Here is a statistical mash up of the patent pending pipeline based on information from WIPO and USPTO.  Getting a comprehensive set of data for one complete year is hard to do since the publication dates on the different statistics varies from source to source, What one takes away from this pipeline prognostication is that there is a prodigious backlog of patent applications that is growing every year.  On a domestic and global basis the number of patents granted each year is less than half the number of new patent applications arriving each year.  The precarious position of patent offices world wide portends continued unrest in the patent sphere and the potential decline in protection of precious inventions.

Enough with the Ps.  Here's the statistics.

In 2010, the number of unprocessed patent applications world-wide stood at 5.17 million.

As of 2009, the number of patent applications filed globally was about 1.8 million a year. (The last year the global number of patent application is available.)

In 2008, the US share of that number was 482,871, about 27%.

In 2010 the number of US patent applications hit 520,277.

In 2009 the USPTO granted 191,927 patents.

By 2010 the US number of patents granted hit 244,341 - less than half of the volume of new applications coming in the door.

In 2008 the global number of grants was 777,556.

The average patent pendency - the period of time between the time a patent application is filed to the time a patent office makes a final decision - is around 32 months.  This number is lower than the US average which stands at about 34 months.

The number of patents in force in the US as of 2009 was 1,930,631.  The global number is a confusing hodge podge of counts by national patent office that doesn't lend itself to compiling one consolidated number.

The bottom line is protracted patent pendency persists.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Magical Journey

Researchers at the Science Museum in London are embarking on a magical journey to try to build Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine, the computational machine he invented in 1831.  The Analytical Engine is a mechanical device designed to handle mathematical computation.

According to today's New York Times Science Times the researchers are planning a 10 year, multi-million dollar (pounds really) adventure to take the blueprints of the various iterations of Mr. Babbage's invention and try to figure out how to actually build it.  The effort will include some crowd-sourced review of scanned copies of his drawings to seek suggestions from the public on the effort.

What is exciting about a project like this is the ability to see how the inventor's thinking about his invention evolved.  I have always been fascinated about the deep thinking of inventors and the convergence of how inventors invent and serendipitous discovery, serendipitous discovery being the ah ha moment or the discovery of something you didn't know you were looking for in the first place.  How did his ideas evolve, how did he change the way he described them - to himself.  How did Mr. Babbage translate his thinking onto paper?  Did his notes provide a road map to his discovery?  In today's digital age with a tendency to just keep modifying the same digital artifacts, do we lose that path to envision another's thought process?

One of the best narratives on Charles Babbage and his analytical inventions and his collaboration with Augusta Ada Kind, Countess of Lovelace can be found in James Gleick's, "The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood."

For the patent cognoscenti out there, it's interesting to consider how this clearly physical mechanical device, designed to handle algorithmic math complete with its physical input media, might be considered in light of business methods patents, patentability of algorithms, and the "it's not patentable if you can do it with a piece of paper and a pencil" argument in today's electrical computational discipline arena.