Perfect Past, Future Tense

Every so often, I pop out of the intellectual property/business and “warp-speed internet’ world into a nostalgic, introspective surrealism. Today was one of those days

Every so often, I pop out of the intellectual property/business and “warp-speed internet’ world into a nostalgic, introspective surrealism.

Today was one of those days.

As I left the US Patent Office complex in Crystal City, train-bound for New York, I began the time-leap.

For the many patent professionals and intellectual property creators who resist change, I began to wonder why so many get ‘future tense.’ It is paradoxical that those who touch tomorrow’s technology take so much comfort in a ‘perfect past.’

The train ride tripped a flashback to my geological expeditions in West Texas many years ago. Then, it was vertically charting time by sequencing Pleistocene, Mesozoic, Paleolithic and other epochal 3-D dates. Today, I chart time horizontally, by assessing gutted pre-war (WWI and WWII) housing, state-of-the-art industrial buildings of the 30’s, boarded-up row houses, rusting cranes (circa 1950’s I reckoned) and burned out relics of pre-catalytic converter cars.

Did time stop? Was the slicing through of Americana by these steel rails the equivalent of core sample boring tools?

The dichotomy! Within a block, I saw the down-trodden slipping through rusted chain-link fencing at the dead-end of the street contrasted with well-dressed folk outside of the “Tabernacle of God” church.

Despair versus Hope. Was the technology of contemporary rail travel the cause ? I hypothesized that those who failed to embrace technology were simply left behind. Soon, I determined this to be the conclusion.

These deprived areas ‘fenced out’ the traces. Despair.

But soon, a long stretch through fall’s early changing gold-tinted leaves was broken by a side-rail leading to a grand Lockheed-Martin facility so big it would take ½ an hour to walk around. Tomorrow’s technology, today. Hope!

Ha! This is what happens when technology is embraced, not fenced out.

Geology lab was over. Solution found.

Then, in a glimmer, I was back to early October, 2000. Now it was clearer.

The recent rule changes of the American Inventors Protection Act (AIPA) still presents an unsettling dilemma for many “old school” patent attorneys, inventors, and patent office professionals. “It’s always been done like this, why change?” Clearly they consider the “Past, perfect.” Confronted with change, they get “Future tense.”

Well, if there’s one undeniable fact ‘practitioners of innovation” must acknowledge, it is that time and technology move on regardless of efforts to resist.

I grew up next to a switchyard, spent ½ my youth walking the tracks and hitching rides on freight trains. I have the railroad.

I’ve spent ½ of the last decade building an internet company. I have technology.

One era was the Perfect Past. Since I’ve embraced new technology, the excitement, the unknown, I’ve avoided the Future Tense anticipation.

Those who plan tomorrow with vigor can mold it.

Those who resist get moldy and will be tomorrow’s new “geological” metric.

It’s about time to innovate. Save nostalgia for retirement (or for a trip to your future on the Crystal City/New York time train).


a) In late September, the Patent Office Professionals Association (POPA), the Labor Organization of the US Patent Examiners, voted down a management-proposed package that included, in part, the scheduled migration from paper searching to computer database searching of Patent Prior Art.

b) As late as 30 days prior to the November 1, 2000 implementation of the USPTO’s electronic patent filing system, less than 7% of registered practicing patent attorneys had applied for a PKI Security Digital Certificate – a requirement to use the new electronic filing systems.

c) Independent inventors continue to file patents after only conducting their patent prior art search, most failing to exhaustively search the thousands of tech journals and other non-patent art databases now available online.

About Andy Gibbs (86 Articles)

Andy Gibbs was a keynote presented at the Patent Quality Index (PQI) initiative at Columbia University.
Hosted by the Royal Society of the Arts, PQI is an empirical study on predictive attributes of high
quality patents.

An IP Thought Leader, he was a Forum Moderator of a the IBM Sponsored WIKI: Standards for
, a global discussion of invited policy makers and IP professions addressing abuses and
guideline standards for technology (patent) standards organizations, and was a member of the
esteemed panel of participants in Building a New IP Marketplace – the IBM / NY Law School WIKI
on policy and process for improving patent quality, transparency, fair valuation, flexibility and global

He served two terms on the USPTO Public Patent Advisory Committee (PPAC), and served as
Chairman, E-government Subcommittee advising on Patent Office IT infrastructure and software
tools. He is an immediate past member of the Board of Directors, Intellectual Property Owners
Association, and a member of the Licensing Executives Society and Patent Information Users
Group. Mr. Gibbs authored the corporate patent strategy book, Essentials of Patents (Wiley),
(Sq. One), and more than 100 patent quality and IP management articles.