Friday, June 08, 2012

IP, IP Hoo... no... make that boo

This really should be on the RE:tie blog (and will be later).

But as it goes to bigger issues, and more people read this, I'll kick off here.

Quick bit of background.

I have, with much encouragement from HMG and her various organs of business promo, patented the RE:tie around the world.

Where its patent has been granted, no questions, or hassles, bar one place: the US of A.

Starting in November of last year, when they blew it out... on the basis that if the inventor of a bottle cap and the inventor of a woman's breast pump met in the pub, they 'could' together, if so minded, have come up with a RE:tie, such that the world's consumers would rush out and by a one-off $30 personal milk expressing device to get a free 0.00000001 cent weekly multiple-use hardware item.

Yeah... me too.

But games have to be played.

But games take time. And if lawyers get involved, expensive.

So two sets of lawyers, and two sets of rejected (the second, by a different USPTO examiner to the first, being a pure cut & paste job) appeals later, I am no further on. Bar being down a set of lawyers. And a ton of money.

Now, when painted into a corner you have little to lose, so you reach out anywhere and everywhere.

Which I did. UK IPO, BIS, British Embassy, UKTI, Chamber... you name the acronym purporting to support SMEs and or IP protection, I told 'em all.

And to a man... or woman... up to Baroness and Minister (or both) level, I got oodles of sympathy. 

'Tut-tut', they said. 'Awful', they intoned. Some thought it fun to share they knew it would happen as that's what always does.

Coming from paid civil servants who are paid to seduce unpaid SME innovators to blow time and money on IP, that can rankle a smidge. No, make that... a lot.

As it stands, I not only cannot argue my appeal, but the US examiner is, to all intents and purposes... hiding. Won't answer phone calls, or emails. Me having danced to every stupid tune and leapt every hurdle and obstacle put in my way.

And on the UK side (from London to Washington) now, the same. Blanked. It can't be happening because they don't have to look at it to see it is.

This... is what country and international governance has come to. Looking like stuff is going on, and spending vast resources on that 'look', but behind the edifice...zippy.

So, Ladies & Gents, let me bring you this gem of a PR email just in, which as you may imagine, was just what the doctor ordered:


You are a subscriber to the email alerts service from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS). 

A new BIS press release has been issued and is 

UK and US call to make the most of international patent system

Measures to make the international system of patent application faster and more effective were announced today by the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) with changes to the UK’s Fast Track system. These moves come as part of a wider effort by the UK and US intellectual property authorities to get more businesses to use the PCT system.

 So... businesses... more of you... USE IT!!! Tick them boxes.

That none of it works, at all, and no one wants to go near why, or how to resolve it... that is not a matter of concern.

No wonder this country is stuffed.

The few doers that remain have their very own posse of stoppers ready to knock them out at every turn, and vast PR machines in complement to pretend that it is all going just fine.

With some experience, and well-filed archives, I beg to differ. It's patently clear it's not working. At all.

Addendum 1

In the mail yesterday day I had a letter from the USPTO, apparently sent round the Horn via clipper to beat the Royal Navy blockade of Boston.

A snail mail letter that, frankly, takes the whole thing to a new level of farce if it were not already. If they simply did their jobs as opposed to concocting stuff like this in avoiding doing so, they might clear the 5 million case backlog apparently causing such behaviour.

If I understand what they have written correctly, I am now in some feedback loop of Purgatory, whereby I can't appeal on my own patent's behalf because they refuse to release the US affiliate as power of attorney. This being the one they would never talk with anyway. But is the only one they wish to deal with. But now deny was ever appointed.

Because I note, in amongst the vast legalese, two intriguing statements, especially given what I understood to have happened based on what I was told, and the USPTO's version of events:

1 - 'a review of the record shows that no attorney's/agents were ever appointed power of attorney in this patent application'

Given the USPTO's rather clear dedication to procedure up front before doing anything, if my US affiliate was, as far as they are now claiming, never appointed, why then have they spun this out with them over several months, including costly appeals,  if they never ascertained they were our/my representatives in the first place? They seem pretty clear on who they can or cannot be talking with, and when... if it suits.

As I recall, the USPTO called my US affiliate to complain that I was trying to contact them directly, and they can only talk to them, which was what instigated this latest flurry of activity. Now... they are claiming all this?

2 - 'Additionally, the present request cannot be approved because the requested change in the correspondence address is improper'.

What it goes on to define as 'proper' is beyond me, as it was, presumably, to the person first advising it.

Maybe it is best left here as they surely cannot reject the patent if they are unprepared to live up to their own procedures, which at the very least means that while the patent is not granted it is stuck at not being rejected either, which serves to deny any copycats.

I am stumped. I have reached out for advice and help from UK trade and IP bodies but... so far... nothing.

So now thinking of adding to my lexicon of public sector syndromes, with 'If not you... who?'.

Because a ton of folk earning a ton of money and spending acres of time promoting endless 'initiatives' have suddenly gone quiet. The IPO. BIS. Chamber. UKTI. Embassy.  All the guys advocating the joys of IP and getting me in this deep... mute.

Not hugely impressed. Landed it back at the door of my now IP UK lawyer too, as some of those accusations from the USPTO also go to professional competence and codes of conduct. At least as to the actions of the affiliate they commissioned (or possibly did not) to act on my patent's behalf there.

Addendum 2 -

Have been kindly contacted by Ian Hartwell of, and offered a further option, for which thanks:

The USPTO has a “Patents Ombudsman” for “when there is a breakdown in the normal application process” – see

As I am painted into a corner it can't hurt, but am not too hopeful, as my experiences with Ombudsmen of any hue, from any country, is not great.

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