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[FYI] U.S.: Can Feds Keep Up With E-Patents?


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March 27, 2000  

Can Feds Keep Up With E-Patents?  

New York Law Journal 

Thursday, March 23, 2000  

THE GROWING number of patent applications being filed with the U.S. 
Patent and Trademark Office by e-commerce companies is prompting some 
technology executives to question whether the PTO has the resources 
and staff to keep up.  

And, this year the agency will begin to implement the American 
Inventors Protection Act of 1999 (AIPA), which is expected to have a 
dramatic impact on patent protection, enforcement and exploitation. 
The new law also paves the way for the agency to restructure itself 
to function more like a business organization.  

Given the sweeping changes and challenges facing the PTO today, New 
York Law Journal reporter Lisa I. Fried met recently with PTO chief 
Q. Todd Dickinson, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce and 
commissioner of patents and trademarks, to discuss these issues. [The 
interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.]  

Q: Historically, many in the patent bar assumed business methods were 
not patentable. In 1998, that quickly changed, when the U.S. Court of 
Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled inState Street Bank v. 
Signature Financial Group, 149 F3d 1368, that business methods were 
patentable. Since then, the PTO has been inundated with applications 
for business method patents, many from technology companies. How many 
computer-related business method patents were filed and granted last 

A: Between October 1998 and September 1999, 2,600 applications for 
computer-related business methods were filed. During that same time 
period, 583 of these patents were issued.  

Q: In the examination process, examiners search through prior art to 
determine if the claimed invention is new, useful and non-obvious. 
Some critics say your office lacks the resources to examine business 
method and software patents. How much prior art exists on these 
claims, and do your examiners have access to it?  


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