03 February 2011

Patentology Newsbytes

A semi-regular round-up of breaking news, current events and comments too trivial to warrant their own posts.


WIPO Acts Against Unauthorised Register Scams – IP Australia Announces First Ever Privacy Policy – US Congressional Research Service Report on Patentable Subject Matter – NSW Government Funds ‘Six Million Dollar Concierge’ – Patentology Contributes to IP Watchdog


Regular readers will know that Patentology is a courageous campaigner against scams seeking to rip off unsuspecting applicants in exchange for worthless ‘services’ such as adding international patent application details to a private database in the Czech Republic.  (Assuming, of course, that your definition of ‘courageous’ encompasses sitting at a desk in Australia bravely warning a small community of blog readers about these scams.)

The far more influential IPKat blog recently took up the case against the self-appointed World Intellectual Property Database (WIPD), the logo of which was startlingly similar to that of the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) (see Patentology here, and the IPKat here).  As recently reported by the aforementioned IPKat, WIPO appears to have successfully wielded some influence behind the scenes resulting in a new look for WIPD.  Just how much the blogging community had to do with this is uncertain, but the IPKat certainly received some useful feedback from inside WIPO.

Of course, aside from the deceptive logo, the scams themselves are not generally illegal, so WIPD and others live on.  The latest PCT Newsletter also includes a reminder warning about unofficial requests for payment of fees.



We reported earlier this week on IP Australia’s updates to its patents forms, one reason for which was to implement aspects of its new privacy policy.  What we did not realise at the time was that IP Australia did not previously have a formal privacy policy, which is a little surprising considering the quantities of personal information the agency handles.

IP Australia has now announced the launch of its first Privacy Policy, stating that:

The Privacy Policy explains how IP Australia handles the personal information of our customers and others in accordance with the requirements of the Privacy Act 1988.
Australia’s Privacy Act regulates the way in which personal information can be collected by organisations and government agencies, the accuracy of the information, how it is kept secure, and how it is used and disclosed.  The Privacy Act also enforces people’s rights to access and correct the personal information held about them.  Our Privacy Policy has also been designed to comply with some changes to the Privacy Act that are expected to come into force in 2012.
The Privacy Policy is a useful information resource for customers and others who want to find out more about the way IP Australia handles their personal information.



On 13 January 2011, the US Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a report entitled ‘Current Issues in Patentable Subject Matter: Business Methods, Tax Planning Methods, and Genetic Materials’.

We obtained a copy, via one of our paid professional memberships, which is clearly watermarked as a publication of Penny Hill Press.  Copyright considerations therefore prevent us from making this copy available online.  However, the summary is freely-available online from Penny Hill Press, and we consider it fair dealing for the purposes of news reporting, review or research, to reproduce the report's conclusing observations:

The topic of patentable subject matter has raised a surprisingly heated debate in many contexts, including business methods, tax strategies, and genetic materials. Many knowledgeable observers have voiced strong objections to patents in these fields on a number of grounds. However, other experts point to the lack of direct evidence that granting patents within these fields has persistently led to deleterious consequences, and instead believe that they potentially benefit society. Although the patenting of business methods, tax strategies, and genetic materials has generally been viewed on an individual basis, the policy issues raised in these debates share many common themes. Collectively, these debates may promote further inquiry into the sorts of inventions that may be appropriately patented.

As a side note, we were very surprised to learn that these CRS reports are funded by tax dollars for the purpose of informing US citizens' elected representatives about relevant political issues, and yet they are not generally made available to the public for free.  As OpenCRS (a project to provide citizens access to CRS Reports already in the public domain) states:

American taxpayers spend over $100 million a year to fund the Congressional Research Service, a "think tank" that provides reports to members of Congress on a variety of topics relevant to current political events. Yet, these reports are not made available to the public in a way that they can be easily obtained.

Penny Hill Press is asking US$29.95 for a PDF (or paper) copy of the Report, which can only be obtained by telephoning them, or emailing a request, including full credit card details (which we do not recommend).  Considering that the taxpayer has already covered the cost of researching and writing the report, that US$29.95 must be almost pure profit...
We also note that, according to Wikipedia, on 8 February 2009 Wikileaks released 6,780 CRS Reports, totaling more than 127,000 pages of text.



The NSW Government's Collaborative Solutions (CS) program is part of its $36 million Digital Economy Strategy, and will provide $2 million per annum for the next three years to bring together business consortiums to develop ICT-enabled solutions to demonstrate the benefits of the digital economy.

The first program under this $6 million fund has now been announced:

The Collaborative Solutions – Mobile Concierge ("CS-MC") program is the first of a series of calls for industry to form collaborative consortia to develop innovative and new-to-market ICT solutions in key sectors that demonstrate the benefits of the digital economy. This first program targets the use of mobile and wireless technologies in the tourism and retail sectors.

More information is available from Industry and Investment NSW.



We were very pleased to accept an invitation from Gene Quinn, of the IP Watchdog blog, to write a piece on the top IP stories of 2010 from our region of the world.

We came up with a top eight, the bottom four of which were published in Part 1 of our article on IP Watchdog earlier this week.  For the record, numbers eight through five are:
  1. Innovation Patents Lose a Little Shine
  2. Australian Federal Court Crackdown on Patentee Amendments
  3. Prison Terms for UGG Infringers
  4. IP Australia Drives Patent Reform
The top four will be revealed in Part 2, to be published soon...



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