The Israel Patent Office Doesn’t Think Too Highly of Medical Devices

The day we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived.  The annual report of the Israel Patent Office was published yesterday.  In it, the Patent Office analyzes all of its activities from the previous year down to the nitty gritty details.  The deceptively intimidatingly long 109-page PDF document boasts a whopping 82 graphs of all shapes and sizes, as well as 18 tables and 11 photos.  Nearly 25% of the pages in the report (that’s 27 pages) are either data-less cover pages of the different sections or entirely blank.  To be sure, there is some text in the document, but most of it is just there to put the pictorial visuals into words.

Among the facts and figures of interest, we are told that 6,425 patent applications were filed in Israel in 2016, down from 6,904 in 2015.  However, 4,935 patents were granted in 2016, which is an increase from the 4,496 that were granted in 2015.

Of those 6,425 filings in 2016, a mere 804 were priority patent applications first filed in Israel, which is the smallest number the Patent Office has seen in at least the past 10 years.  Ouch.  The remaining 5,621 non-priority documents is the 3rd smallest number during that same time span.

There are chapters on financial highlights, legal data and freedom of information, as well as a section on each of the main Intellectual Property types – Trademarks, Patents and Designs.

The first hint we are given that the Patent Office might not rank Medical Device inventions as significant, is in Graph 37, titled, “Average Pendency (in months) of First Examination in 2016 – According to Classification.”

You’ll notice that the health industry fields of Chemistry and Pharmaceuticals (25.5 mo) as well as Biotechnology (23.2 mo) receive their own category in the graph, yet Medical Devices are lumped together with, of all things, Computers and Electronics (31.3 mo).

Medical Devices appear in 6 more graphs together with Computers and Electronics, and one time even Communications inventions(!) are added to the group, while all along, Chem/Pharma and Biotech stand on their own.

We are informed that among Medical Devices, Computers and Electronics inventions in 2016, 146 applications were spun off into divisionals, 397 applications were allowed under Section 17(c) and 29 applications were fast tracked.  But how many were actually Medical Device?  No clue.

One is tempted to suggest that probably one or more of the Med Dev/Computer/Electronics/(Communications) categories wouldn’t have high enough numbers to warrant their own individual seats on these graphs relative to the others.  But forcibly cojoining unrelated fields of art to create a single Voltronic classification doesn’t do anything but skew the averages and contort the graphical representations. 

And in any case, that explanation doesn’t even seem to hold water.  If high numbers were a consideration, then in Graph 55 titled, “Immediate Examinations According to Classification, from 2013 – 2016”, where the lowest numbered categories (Biotech, 8 and Chemistry/Pharma, 9) could have been combined to at least come close to leveling the playing field with the highest numbered category (Mechanics/Physics, 61), they were nevertheless left alone as individual categories.

Without giving Medical Device inventions the time of day, how are we supposed to glean anything about the industry as it relates to the world of patents?

Strangely, on the one hand, Medical Devices apparently deserve their own staff grouping at the Patent Office, yet when it comes to revealing the data behind their yearly progress they are left off the grid.

What I’d like to see for next year is a true break down of the numbers according to distinct classifications.  If a category only has a couple of patents to be represented in a graph, so be it.  No more arbitrary classification forming or data obscuring.  Perhaps the Patent Office could learn a thing or two from media watchdog, HonestReporting.

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