A Thought or Two on US Patent 10,000,000
by Ted Pigott
On June 19, patent number 10 million was issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
US Patent No. 10,000,000B2, which listed Joseph Marron as the inventor and Raytheon as the assignee, was issued for “Coherent LADAR Using Intra-Pixel Quadrature Detection.” LADAR stands for “laser detection and ranging,” and it utilizes light-emitting lasers instead of the radio waves that traditional RADAR employs.
To celebrate this milestone, the USPTO set up a special microsite. The site presents a brief history of patents in the USA, with an animated timeline highlighting major events in US patent history.
The USPTO’s current numbering system dates back to 1836, and it took 155 years (from 1836 to 1991) for the first five million patents to be issued in the US.
Following this, however, the next five million US patents were issued in just 27 years!
(Chart created from data on USPTO)
While the issuance of US patent number 10 million is definitely a milestone worth noting, it is, perhaps, this explosion of US patents over the past three decades that may be even more noteworthy.
Some have noted that this sharp increase in patents over the past thirty years has had several downsides, with low-value or even useless patents clogging up the patent system, undermining innovation, increasing frivolous lawsuits, and driving up costs.
This explosion of patents—and more specifically patent data—was examined at great length in the article “Illuminating the Dark Side of Patent Data,” which was written by Y.P. Jou, Hua Chen, Steven Reiss, and Leon Hsu, and published in IAM magazine issue 87 in January/February of 2018.
As this article noted, however, there is hope.
With recent advances in technology, such as big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), it is now possible to develop and deploy patent intelligence platforms and tools that enable patent professionals to identify potential errors in patent applications. This could assist greatly in reducing the number of low-quality patents that are granted.
Patentcloud’s Quality and Value Rankings, for example, provide instant insights into overall patent quality and value, while the exclusive Patentcloud product, Quality Insights, and the soon-to-be-released Value Insights, enable a deeper dive into the details of a specific patent.
So, while it is fun to celebrate patent number 10 million, perhaps we should also be celebrating the rise of big data and AI technologies and the development of new products and tools. After all, when it comes to patents, perhaps the focus should be more on the quality and value of the patents issued, instead of just the quantity.
(Image of the new 2018 design for a US patent—courtesy of the USPTO microsite.)