It has become the fashion these days to bemoan the poor quality of American public school education (occasionally correct), American popular music (mostly correct), and American political leadership (presently correct). Now, one percipient voice is addressing the poor quality of American patents (frequently correct).
In "The Elephant In The Room," an article by Craig P. Opperman published in Intellectual Asset Management (July/August 2009), the author points to the increasingly common practice of American businesses to focus on obtaining a large number of patents, at the cost of patent quality. Apparently, these businesses are ignoring Dennis Miller’s oft-quoted observation that, “two times crap is crap.”
As noted by Mr. Opperman, statistics show that less than half of the patent applications now being filed will issue as patents and, of those that issue, less than half will be maintained by their owners – the remainder being abandoned as being worth less than the maintenance fees.
What has brought us to this sorry state of affairs? In part, it is the result of seeking to obtain more patents based on less research. Patents are being sought based upon ever-decreasing amounts of research. In part, it is the result of a lack of proper selection as to which inventions are financially worthy of patenting, i.e. those that are of strategic value to the inventor’s business.
Patent prosecution, worthwhile or not, provides substantial income for numbers of patent attorneys and agents, and far be it from us to upset that gravy train. Nevertheless, it would behoove those involved in managing patent procurement activities to read Mr. Opperman’s article and give heed to what he says.