U.S. Patent No. 10,000,000

By Dennis Crouch

Today the USPTO issued U.S. Patent No. 10,000,000 covering a new form of LADAR invented by Joseph Marron and assigned to Raytheon. [patent10million].

The patent is the 10 millionth issued since the current numbering system was established in 1836. Although the count has been going for 182 years, one-half of the patents have been issued over the past 30 years. The chart below shows the number of U.S. utility patents issued per year over the past four decades with an expected-value for 2018.

LADAR (Laser detection and ranging) is similar to RADAR, but uses a light emitting LASER instead of radio waves.  These are well known systems, the improvement appears to be that the system can receive multiple inputs within a single clock cycle.

Patent No. 10 Million is atypical in several ways:

  • The ‘000 patent lists a single inventor.  Most new patents list multiple inventors.
  • The ‘000 patent does not claim priority to or benefit from any prior US or Foreign application.  Most new patents include at least one priority claim.
  • The ‘000 patent lists a U.S. corporate patent owner.  Most new corporate-owned patents are owned by foreign companies.

Compare, for example Patent No. 10,000,001 — an injection molding invention with multiple inventors, claiming priority back to an original Korean patent application and owned by a Korean company.

24 thoughts on “U.S. Patent No. 10,000,000

  1. 9

    Let’s look at the claim:

    1. A laser detection and ranging (LADAR) system, comprising: a two-dimensional array of detector elements, each detector element within the array including: a photosensitive region configured to receive return light reflected from a target and oscillating local light from a local light source, and local processing circuitry coupled to an output of the respective photosensitive region and configured to receive an analog signal on the output and to sample the analog signal a plurality of times during each sample period clock cycle to obtain a plurality of components for a sample during each sample period clock cycle; a data bus coupled to one or more outputs of each of the detector elements and configured to receive the plurality of sample components from each of the detector elements for each sample period clock cycle; and a processor coupled to the data bus and configured to receive, from the data bus, the plurality of sample components from each of the detector elements for each sample period clock cycle and to determine an amplitude and a phase for an interfering frequency corresponding to interference between the return light and the oscillating local light using the plurality of sample components.

    Hey, that’s a ton of functional language without supporting structure. There must be a lot of supporting material in the specification, right?

    What’s that you say? The specification is only three pages, and mostly boilerplate?

    Where’s the EFF? Why aren’t people like Daniel Nazer chomping at the bit to rave about how this is a “stupid patent?” Where’s the cadre of critics who will characterize this as “abstract?”

    Oh, right. It has that magic term: circuit. Obviously this is electronics and not software, so § 101 categorically doesn’t apply.

    By all means, let’s talk again about how some software patent with a 50-page specification doesn’t provide enough “structure” to support the claims.

  2. 8

    This patent to a U.S. inventor was hand-picked to be number 10,000,000, as were previous milestone patents 9,000,000, 8,000,000, etc., which were also to U.S. inventors. Patent 10,000,001 with a Korean inventor that Dennis mentioned should have been 10,000,000 if the USPTO followed its normal procedure of assigning patent numbers. The patents that are to be issued on a particular day are sorted alphabetically according to the first CPC classification listed, and then numbers are assigned sequentially to the sorted patents. The classification of 10,000,000 is G01S 7/4863. The classification of 9,999,999 is B29C 45/231, and the classification of 10,000,0001 is B29C 45/64. 10,000,000 should have appeared between 10,001,551 (G01S 7/4817) and 10,001,552 (G01S 7/5208), and thus should have been numbered 10,001,551 (the numbers of all patents between 10,000,001 and 10,001,551 would decrease by 1). It always annoys me when the USPTO does this.

    1. 8.1

      That you are annoyed says more about you than you may think.

      You do realize that patent law is a sovereign-specific law, right?

      Acting “put-off” because a milestone patent is chosen “out of order” is itself far more petty than the item that you are complaining about.

      Don’t like it here in this sovereign (or that the sovereign looks to benefit itself)? Don’t let the door hit you too hard on your way out.

  3. 7

    The only quibble I have with this blog report is: “Most new corporate-owned patents are owned by foreign companies.” It is true that most of the “top 10” list of owners of new U.S. patents issued each year are now foreign companies. However, I would like to see the statistics for ALL corporate owners. Many U.S. patents are obtained by mid-sized and smaller U.S. companies filing only, or largely, in the U.S.

    1. 7.1

      P.S. A recent law firm internet talk by the U.S. Commissioner of Patents indicated that the ratio of U.S. to foreign owned issued patents remains about equal, as it has since 2008, both increasing. It would be interesting to see if that is also true of new applications, but not all applicants file assignments with applications.

    2. 7.2

      Thanks Paul – I’ll run the numbers again on this later this summer.

  4. 6

    Handpicked or luck of the draw? Considering the outliers suggested by Dennis.

    1. 6.1

      AT, I don’t think anyone seriously thinks number 10 million got that number entirely by mere “luck of the draw.”

      1. 6.1.1

        I think Randal’s comment confirms that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

    2. 6.2

      Handpicked. Read the report on patent no. 9 million on the 12:01 tuesday blog.

  5. 5

    The downward trend in the number of patents with only one named inventor could also be reflecting more corporate employee team efforts on more [increasingly] complex and inter-technologies patents, as well as the decline in independent inventor patents and their decline in grant rates over 10 million pieces of prior art patents? I.e., one would have to look at assignment records as well as the number of inventors.

    1. 5.1

      The above was supposed to be in response to number 1 below.

    2. 5.2

      Good points Paul -thanks.

    3. 5.3

      Upon reflection, I am not sure that the assignment records would be on point. Of course, your comment does bring up an important point that one should not assume that a single listed inventor means that a large scale corporation was not the driver behind the invention (and thus the same driver behind “team” inventions).

      Perhaps a better indicator would be the hard numbers (and trends from such ) on micro and small entity declarations of those items that became issued patents.

      Of course, the more immediate point here is that given the (hard number) increase of grants themselves (low of 50,000 circa 1980 upwards to about 310,000 grants recently), a “linear” graph based on percentage does NOT mean that the hard numbers themselves have dropped. Quite in fact, those hard numbers may very well indicate a rise in one-inventor activity (but just being dwarfed by a much larger rise in team activity).

      To wit:
      57% of 50,000 (1980) = 28,500
      28% of 310,000 (2017) = 86,800

      or a GROWTH of over 300%

      To paraphrase Twain:

      the report of the death of the single inventor is an exaggeration.

      link to thisdayinquotes.com

      Now who benefits from that exaggeration…. (think Lemley and his ilk)

  6. 4

    Everything that can be invented, has been invented.

    1. 4.1

      Here come the zombies!

  7. 3

    The file wrapper includes a (granted) petition to expunge trade secret material inadvertently submitted with an IDS. Oops.

    No section 101 consideration of the claims anywhere in the prosecution record.

    1. 3.1

      No section 101 consideration of the claims anywhere in the prosecution record.

      That seems impossible.

      Let’s look at the Abstract [sic – pun intended]:

      A frequency modulated (coherent) laser detection and ranging system includes

      a read-out integrated circuit formed with a two-dimensional array of detector elements
      [Conventional components]

      each including a photosensitive region receiving both return light reflected from a target and light from a local oscillator,
      [Conventional components, laws of nature]

      and local processing circuitry sampling the output of the photosensitive region four times during each sample period clock cycle to obtain quadrature components.
      [Conventional components, mere math]

      A data bus coupled to one or more outputs of each of the detector elements receives the quadrature components from each of the detector elements for each sample period and serializes the received quadrature components.
      [Conventional components, mere math]

      A processor coupled to the data bus receives the serialized quadrature components and determines an amplitude and a phase for at least one interfering frequency corresponding to interference between the return light and the local oscillator light using the quadrature components.
      [Conventional components, laws of nature, “mental steps,” “just apply it”]

      So in summary (at the “Gist” stage):
      Conventional components doing what conventional components do.
      Law of Nature
      “just math”
      “mental steps”

      And let’s take a peak at the background of the disclosure:
      There is, therefore, a need in the art for improved capture and handling of data employed for coherent laser detection and ranging.
      Capture and handling of data – per court cases, this is Abstract (direct to…)

      1. 3.1.1

        A ‘need in the art’ ?? I thought that was a KSR invitation now – and is verboten specification language, for best practice prosecution.

      2. 3.1.2

        It would be useful to show the bankruptcy of the current system to get the claims in this high profile patent invalidated in a PGR for lack of patent eligible subject matter.

        1. 3.1.2.1

          Agreed, someone file an IPR and have the ‘famous’ 10 million patent sent to the PTAB shredder. Then maybe some reporter could expose Ross to the embarrassment of the current patent system.

  8. 2

    As a patent nerd, one of my favorite things to do is review the examiner search strategy of “high profile” patents like this. I’m definitely not providing any kind of opinion regarding the validity of this patent, but the search strategy is sure, um, efficient:

    June 5, 2017
    Approximately 5 references were reviewed to find US 20060227317 used in the non-final rejection in combination with US 5093563 from the International Search Report.

    Nov 27, 2017
    Approximately 40 additional references were reviewed before a notice of allowance was issued.

    That said, the examiner is the subject matter expert and the International Search Report came from the highly regarded European Patent Office, so there may be no additional art to be found…

  9. 1

    The data from the second graph should be used in conjunction with the “linear” percentage data of the graph here: link to patentlyo.com

    in order to show hard numbers of what individual inventor trends have been

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