SAWS, The Secret Patent Classification System of USPTO

Death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Find out more

Death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The staff at Franks & Co were saddened to learn of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Our thoughts are with His Majesty King Charles III and the rest of the Royal Family.

The United Kingdom is now officially in a period of mourning until after the Queen’s state funeral which is to be held on Monday 19 September. Normal day-to-day business will continue throughout this period.

The UK government has declared the day of the funeral to be a national Bank Holiday, so the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office will be closed on Monday 19 September.

The United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office’s official guidance on bank holidays is given below:

The office is deemed to be closed on weekends, Good Friday, Christmas Day and all England and Wales bank holidays for all types of business, except for the filing of new applications not claiming priority. If documents are filed for these types of business at times when the office is deemed to be closed, they will receive an official filing date of the next working day.

Any official time period which expires on a weekend or any other day on which the office is closed is extended to the next working day.

Skip navigation

Recent information shows that the US Patent Office (USPTO), which has the task of evaluating and granting patent applications, has since 2006 a secret classification system for patent applications that are considered controversial or 'inconvenient'

Patent applications classified under SAWS (Sensitive Application Warning System) are scrutinized and their grant is often deliberately delayed. Where the average time between filing and issuance of a normal American patent concerns about 2.5 to 3 years, a company whose application was placed under the SAWS program often has to await a grant for a period twice as long (if his patent is granted at all). An applicant having received the SAWS imprint will not be informed of the latter, and will find itself in an IP vacuum without even realizing.

The reasons for classifying a patent application under SAWS are diverse, and the exact criteria are unclear. A fifty-page document was released by IP office Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, which revealed the practice, refers to vague descriptions such as "dangerous", "too frivolous", "too advanced" (!) and would potentially generate unwanted media coverage when granted“. Additionally, applications which are situated in the areas of telephony (smartphones), Internet applications and education are found to be more susceptible to a classification under SAWS. However, clear guidelines are lacking at the moment.

Although the SAWS program is probably more exception rather than rule, it does at least raise some eyebrows. Wilfully obstructing the granting of a patent can have a serious impact on businesses, which often result in a loss of investment for the company or which obliges them to adjust their business strategy. The scarce information known about the system seems to indicate that especially start-ups with promising technologies are prone to become a victim of SAWS.


Article Published August 26, 2015