Freedom to operate just got a whole lot easier
The world is not perfect, get used to it. Patenting decisions have to be made with imperfect information.
A key purpose behind patent searching in general and Freedom-to-Operate (FTO) searches in particular, is to allow for decision-making with a better understanding of the threats that do or could exist to future patent, and therefore, business plans. This understanding lowers the possibility of, and costs associated with, mistakes made by either an under appreciation or over appreciation of the scope of patent claims that other companies may have the right to enforce.
Any step that the USPTO can take to make publically available patent information more transparent will help business managers to make better patenting decisions with more complete information. In one such step, the USPTO recently began to publish a list of abandoned patent applications.
The publication of this list means that it will be easier to determine when a pending patent of concern no longer poses a threat as written to your freedom to operate. Given that over one third of the 2.5 million published US patent applications have or will be abandoned by their applicants, a significant body of potential threats to your freedom to operate will no longer be threats, with due consideration given to unpublished continuing applications.
For the patent strategist, early notice that a threat no longer exists, or in some way has been diminished, can be just as important as early warning that a threat does exist. Such initiatives by the USPTO to make patent information more transparent should be applauded and encouraged by businesses. For more information, see the brilliant review over at PatentlyO.
[Image credit: yewenyi]