Are we starting to see some evidence of President Obama's promised Transparency?
Consider the following odd statistic:
- Number of patents to issue in 2010 (so far) with prosecution histories of more than 20 years: 10
- Number of patents to issue in 2009 with prosecution histories of more than 20 years: 0
- ,,,in 2008: 4
- ,,,in 2007: 3
The 2010 patents are shown in the chart below.
Why the vast difference between 2010 and 2009 (and the previous two years)? One theory is that, under the Obama administration and its promise "to usher in a new era of open government," the secrecy orders on older patent applications were reviewed with a new eye toward transparency, resulting in lifting more confidentiality restrictions than had previously been done. The timing would fit: if the secrecy orders were lifted during Obama's first year in office -- 2009 -- then after a few months of resumed prosecution and preparation for publication, the patents would issue in 2010. Makes sense.
But like many nice theories, it's unfortunately not supported by the facts. In actuality, only one of these patents, 7,673,565, had its secrecy order rescinded in 2009. In fact, the oldest patent on the list, 7,696,460, was declassified in 2000 under Clinton. The others came out of hiding between 2005-2008, during the "secretive" George W. Bush presidency.
For now, we'll just chalk this up to coincidence and randomness. But if someone out there has a better theory, please share.