USPTO Orders Reexamination of Y2K Fix Patent

Press Release

Brigid Quinn
Kim Byars

Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks Q. Todd Dickinson ordered today the reexamination of a computer software patent granted to a California resident. The patent involves a method of extending computer processing of dates beyond the turn of the century, the so-called "Y2K problem."

Patent number 5,806,063, titled "Date Formatting and Sorting for Dates Spanning the Turn of the Century," was granted to Bruce Dickens of Irvine, Calif., on September 8, 1998.

Commissioner Dickinson ordered the reexamination after the discovery of information that was not considered when the patent was originally examined and granted. The PTO will reconsider the claims in the patent to determine whether the invention is new and non-obvious [key criteria for awarding patents] in the context of the newly discovered information.

Under PTO policy, commissioner-ordered reexaminations are discretionary and rare. It must be apparent that information not considered in the examination of the patent raises a substantial new question of patentability of one or more claims of the patent. In addition, other compelling reasons must exist to order reexamination at the Commissioner's initiative. In the past, Commissioner-ordered reexaminations have been initiated where significant concern about the patentability of the claimed subject matter has been expressed by a substantial segment of the industry.

The patent and the reexamination files are available for public inspection at the PTO's Public Search Room between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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