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The Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is soliciting public comment in a Federal Register notice on the databases it uses to find prior art relevant to its examination of software-implemented business method patents. The agency is also seeking public input on additional information and material that could be considered during examination of business method patents. Complete information about the business method patent databases can be found at http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/sol/notices/ab26.html .
The law requires that a patent be granted for an invention unless USPTO can establish, typically based on prior art references, that the invention is not new or that it is obvious when viewed in the context of what is already known in the technology. Additionally, the invention must have a concrete, tangible and useful result, and how to make and use the invention must be disclosed.
The request for comments on the agency's prior art databases is another component of USPTO's March 2000 Business Method Patent Initiative (http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/sol/actionplan.html). The initiative is designed to ensure high quality patents in this fast-emerging technology. Business method applications are also subject to expanded prior art searches and they receive a second review as part of the initiative.
The USPTO has experienced substantial growth in patent application filings for computer-implemented processes related to electronic commerce. Applications for software-implemented business method patents grew from 170 in 1995 to 7,800 in 2000. Last year USPTO issued 899 business method patents.
USPTO administers patent and trademark laws protecting intellectual property and rewarding individual effort. Intellectual property is a potent force in the competitive free enterprise system. By protecting intellectual endeavors and encouraging technological progress, USPTO seeks to preserve the United States' technological edge, which is a key to our current and future competitiveness. USPTO also disseminates patent and trademark information that promotes an understanding of intellectual property protection and facilitates the development and sharing of new technologies worldwide.
Over six million patents have been issued since the first patent in 1790 and more than 2.3 million trademarks have been registered since the first in 1870. Last year USPTO issued 182,223 patents and registered 127,794 trademarks.