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Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership

Friday Sep 16, 2011

Re-Inventing the US Patent System

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos

In the past 50 years, we have seen technology evolve at a faster pace than any other period in history, but our patent laws have not kept up. Earlier today, that changed.

In an ongoing commitment to the innovative spirit that has defined our nation, the President’s signature on the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act sets into motion the most significant overhaul to our patent system, since the founding fathers first conceived of codifying a grand bargain between society and invention.

Since the inception of our country, well-defined and secure patent rights have enabled creative thinkers of all stripes to protect their ideas. An efficiently operating IP system—one which processes applications and issues high-quality patents quickly—is especially vital to small and new businesses, which create two out of every three American jobs. For investors, patents are strong indicators of market potential for new companies. And for inventors, they are essential to attracting the venture capital to develop and distribute their products to society.

Starting today, the historic legislation provides applicants greater certainty about their patent rights, while giving the USPTO, and our examining corps the resources we need to operate efficiently and to issue high-quality patents quickly. The law also cuts costs for small and medium-sized enterprises and establishes a new in-house review process for challenging patents that is faster and significantly cheaper than costly and prolonged litigation that stymies technological growth. By resolving disputes about patent rights earlier, more efficiently, and at less cost, we’re able to add greater certainty to the American patent system. That certainty ensures that the ingenuity of the American people has the power to accelerate our economic recovery, and ensures that our nation’s innovators and job creators aren’t held back.

While this historic law overhauls the American patent system, it takes effect over a period of years, so the USPTO will have time to plan and implement the necessary adjustments.  An AIA taskforce coordinator and working groups have already been established to oversee a staged implementation of the bill. Extensive input will be sought from the public, our stakeholders, and our employees through a variety of outreach effort—so we encourage you to participate and regularly track updates pertaining to the new law at www.uspto.gov/americainventsact.

The United States has always been hardwired for innovation. We all know that we face genuine economic competition in more sectors, from more companies, and from more places than ever before. But generation after generation, whether it’s planting a flag on the moon or communicating across continents by the click of a button—it is American inventors who have led the world to historic discovery, unleashing a tidal waves of new jobs in new industries. That’s why we also appreciate the strong support of the legislation's co-sponsors, as well as the continuing commitment of all Members of Congress and our stakeholders, in helping pass this law and ensuring that the USPTO retains the funding it needs perform its core mission, and unlock those key technologies that will define generations to come.

The America Invents Act is tremendous down payment on the aggressive jobs agenda President Obama has laid out for our country, and I look forward to the challenges that lay ahead in building out a 21st century United States Patent and Trademark Office will protect the ideas that spur economic growth.

Comments:

Bravo, Mr.Kappos, for your support for the AIA and for modernizing the PTO.

Posted by Richard Beem on September 16, 2011 at 11:55 PM EDT #

I submit that another outstanding and growing issue left unresolved in patenting is the inception of patent trolling. Shell corporations buy out weak, vague software patents that should never have been granted and enforce them on everyone from the makers of Angry Birds to a small startup that uses the internet. Literally, these patents are often as simple as describing a database. The expense of litigation is so great that victims are left to pay licensing fees, ranging from the 10's of thousands to millions, to these companies who's only goal is to make money off these patents. Something needs to be done to address this concern, be it a clear statement on the validity of these software and business methods patents, or additional legislation to inhibit patent trolling while still preserving legitimate patent protection means.

Posted by Matt on September 19, 2011 at 08:58 AM EDT #

We need to make sure that the Post Grant Review (PGR) process is not used as a means to force legitimate new claims or entire patents into the public domain. The USPTO has the authority to closely monitor the PGR activity and report this information to the public. I am proposing that the USPTO establish a public data base that reports the results of all the PGR cases. This data base should include the names and corporate affiliations of the parties involved, references to the patents involved, and online links to any written judgments of the administrative patent judges. This public data base of PGR activity would allow members of the public, such as me, to determine the identity of the corporations challenging newly issued patents and to determine if any “patent busting” strategies are being employed. This open-government approach would help to deter any misuse of the PGR system.

Posted by Nickolaus E. Leggett on September 22, 2011 at 01:52 PM EDT #

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