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HBO’s John Oliver on Abuse of the U.S. Patent System and How You Can Use the Patent Application Alert Service to Do Something About It

Posted on Apr 24, 2015 in Blog

The April 19, 2015 episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight featured a critique of the U.S. patent system by host John Oliver. After emphasizing the importance of patents to the funding of companies as evidenced by everyone’s favorite investors, the “sharks” of ABC’s Shark Tank, Oliver proceeded to provide an entertaining, albeit simplistic, overview of the economic harm caused by overly broad and vague patents asserted by non-practicing entities, which are more commonly known as “patent trolls”. Oliver concluded the episode by expressing disappointment in the failure of Congress to pass a bill to cut down on frivolous patent infringement lawsuits by, e.g., requiring courts to award fees to the prevailing party and requiring greater transparency in the ownership of non-practicing entities.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has undertaken a number of initiatives to improve the quality of patents it issues. The latest of these is the Patent Application Alert Service (PAAS), which is being made available to the public through a partnership between the USPTO and Reed Tech. According to the USPTO’s description:

This service enables you to stay up-to-date with patent application pre-grant publications at USPTO that are potentially relevant to you. Through customizable alerts, you can be notified when a patent application is published by the USPTO which meets criteria set by you. The notification that you will receive contains links to the Application Patent Full Text system (AppFT) allowing you to retrieve the full text and images of the pre-grant publications meeting your criteria.

PAAS should contribute to the quality of U.S. patents by facilitating the involvement of the public in the examination process. Third parties can easily monitor technology of interest and contribute prior art to the USPTO for published applications that are being examined.

If you have any questions regarding PAAS, if you would like us to customize an alert for you, or if you would like us to file prior art in a competitor’s pending application, we invite you to contact us.

– by David Tener

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