This week the USPTO issued a record number 4,976 utility patent — setting an all time single-week high. As it turns out, the top-ten single week issuance numbers all come from fiscal year 2012. (The top seven come from calendar year 2012 even though we are only 13-weeks into the year). As the PTO continues to ramp-up examination throughput, we can expect these numbers to continue to rise. The PTO does not regularly release information regarding the number of abandoned cases and so I have been unable to confirm whether those numbers have risen in parallel.
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The newest group of patents include No. 8,141,114 issued to Microsoft.The '114 patent is directed to a "content rating and recommendation system." I wonder whether the claim should be considered dead-on-arrival based upon its failure to claim patent eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. 101. The examiner had initially rejected the claims as subject matter ineligible in a 2008 office action rejection. That rejection was withdrawn after Microsoft amended the claim preambles to include the phrase "computer-readable medium" in the system claims and "implemented using a processor" in the method claims.
The system claim:
1. A content ratings and recommendation system implemented using a computer-readable medium, comprising:
a ratings service configured to compile ratings of programs for a rating system that is associated with a group of viewers where at least one viewer of the group of viewers establishes the rating system including at least one standard of the rating system, and where at least some viewers of the group of viewers use the rating system to rate the programs for the group of viewers, wherein the rating system represents flexible characterization of the media content of the programs based on at least one of any possible descriptive aspect of the program;
a recommendation service configured to provide program recommendations to the viewers of the group of viewers based on the rating system, the recommendation further being configured to monitor viewing selections of a viewer that is not a member of the group of viewers, and to offer a membership into the rating system to the viewer based on the viewing selections of the viewer and the at least one standard of the rating system; and
a rater monitoring service configured to receive a rating of a particular viewer who used the rating system to rate a particular program and to provide the rating of the particular viewer to the viewers of the group of viewers, the rating of the particular viewer relating to a reliability or credibility of the ratings made by the particular viewer.
The patent application was originally filed six years ago in 2006. The examiner issued a non-final rejection followed by a final rejection. At that point, Microsoft filed a first request for continued examination (RCE) and the examiner issued a non-final rejection followed by another final rejection. At that point, Microsoft filed a second RCE and the examiner issued two more rejections. The examiner then considered Microsoft's amendment-after-final and allowed the case. During this time, Microsoft amended the claims six different times before eventually finding a set of claims that the examiner found allowable. During this time, the examiner stuck with the same prior art rejections that were found in the original rejection with the caveat that the examiner added one additional reference to the fifth office action.
It is interesting (at least to me) that none of the three listed inventors work at Microsoft any longer.