Who is Frip, anyway? Is he a patent attorney? Noooo…, but he flunked the exam twice. Is he a patent agent?
Noooo…. Has he been a patent examiner?
Noooo…. Okay, just how is he qualified to discuss the patent system? Well, he trained as patent examiner for almost six whole weeks. Here is Frip’s story. He is a retired guy with a weird educational and professional background spanning law, finance, and engineering. In 2007, to pad his pension, he responded to a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recruitment drive for patent examiners. The Patent Office was seeking to expand substantially its examiner force. The number of patent applications had been, and still is, increasing significantly, and the Patent Office’s principal solution was to throw bodies at the problem. Maybe that still is the principal solution. So Frip gets hired and shows up for the USPTO’s Patent Training Academy. At the time each class at the Academy was organized into sections of fifteen to twenty individuals. Each section was under the supervision of an instructor. The instructor for Frip’s section prided himself on running a tight ship. Unfortunately, Frip has always had a problem with tight ships, and authority in general. The instructor and Frip did not hit it off. Furthermore, Frip found himself assigned to the field of business methods patents. As a result of a decision by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in 1998 (State Street Bank & Trust Co. v. Signature Financial Group, Inc., 149 F.3d 1368), the field had exploded. Patent applications were filed for all kinds of intangible processes, methods, systems, and what all, many in the field of finance and many of which struck Frip as not the sort of thing that should be patented. For example, what public policy is being advanced by granting patents for tax strategies? Between the authoritative instructor and a growing feeling that he was on the bottom rung of a system in need of serious overhaul, Frip was not a happy camper. Late one afternoon in early June of 2007, he pulled the plug. He is even thinking of applying for a business methods patent for his method of exit. In the peculiar wording and terminology of the patent world, the claimed invention would be as follows: “A method of resigning from a position comprising the steps of handing one’s security badge to the security guard at the exit with the comment, ‘I ain’t coming back,’ having the security guard respond with a chuckle, ‘Bad day, huh,’ and in turn responding, ‘Bad month.’”