uspto.gov
Skip over navigation

“The Munich Talks: A Global Call for Harmonization”

Under Secretary of Commerce for IP & Director of the USPTO David Kappos

July 5, 2011

Tri-Lateral Press Conference

“The Munich Talks: A Global Call for Harmonization”

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Good morning everybody. I want to thank you all for attending and also express the sincere thanks on behalf the United States Patent and Trademark Office to both the European Patent Office and the Japanese Patent Office in joining me today. EPO President Benoît Battistelli and JPO Commissioner Yoshiyuki Iwai have demonstrated considerable leadership in advancing today’s dialogue—and we are very grateful to President Battistelli for convening this meeting in Munich. I also want to thank the heads of the UK, French, German and Danish patent offices—for participating in this dialogue inspired by the need to better manage the collective challenges our IP infrastructures face in a 21st century economy. 

In a world where information and commerce increasingly transcend borders, and innovators seek to enter markets abroad, it is imperative that the international patent system provide a consistent, cost-effective and more expeditious way to obtain clear and reliable patent rights in multiple jurisdictions. Through global synergy and collaboration, we have a unique opportunity, right now, to meet these challenges—and I believe it is imperative that we act by moving closer to global patent harmonization.

Because while the dynamics of our economic landscape may be shifting, the importance of IP rights is not. IP is the premier global currency for creating value for services and products, for all innovators, in all markets, and in all countries. Yet with our IP systems so varied—innovators and patent offices around the world have to repeat the same work, time and time again—countless times per year at different patent offices—ultimately wasting billions of dollars a year, and clogging the pendency pipeline, while devaluing that currency of innovation.

To devise real solutions that cut down workflow redundancies—we must collaborate. And to truly enable the global innovation system to flourish, we need to take concrete steps to harmonize our substantive patent laws. Greater harmonization is essential to the efficient functioning of our respective patent systems, and bears the potential to unleash millions of jobs—driving real growth for all of our economies. But our discussions must be rooted in global best policies and best practices—basic principals we agree define a 21st century patent system that optimizes technological progress. 

Because until we improve the basic incompatibilities in our underlying legal systems, our collective efforts will remain hampered at best. And our approach the 21st century needs to start by using a different approach than the failed patent law harmonization attempts of the past. It must begin with a global dialogue, including developed and developing countries, to gain a better understanding of our needs, our concerns, and our flexibilities. And we must learn why each of us considers a specific approach to be a best practice worthy of inclusion in the global (gold standard) IP system.

The Council of the European Union recently took a critical harmonization step of its own through the creation of a single patent system—one that would replace the status quo of individually validated and enforceable rights in each country. While the new rules are still in the process of adoption, the USPTO applauds the EU’s leadership in streamlining and strengthening its IP architecture. Also, not only will this reduce patenting costs for all countries, but it represents a step towards greater harmonization generally.

Inspired by the EU’s bold steps, in March the United States Patent and Trademark Office hosted the Asia-Pacific Patent Cooperation Conference, as a first step of our own to restart a global dialogue. The goal was simple—to share views on patent law harmonization. And the result was a universal affirmation that harmonization discussions must resume anew. 

We then took the clarion call for action to London, and a month later engaged our European partners on judicial elements of harmonization in Brussels. And just last week we followed up with the world’s largest patent offices in Tokyo. So from patent office to patent office, the will to enhance our collaborative capacity exists and the will to finally harmonize our patent laws exists.

And let me assure you that the United States is ready to lead on our side of the Atlantic. Just last week the US House of Representatives demonstrated significant and historic leadership in passing sweeping patent reform legislation by an overwhelming margin. With the Senate having passed a similar bill in the spring, we are diligently continuing to work with Congress to ensure the president can sign this into law quickly. When enacted, this legislation will transition the US from first-to-invent to the first-inventor-to-file system, eliminate the Hilmer doctrine, eliminate the best mode defenses, and move other areas of US patent law to international norms.

By doing away with multiple sets of disjointed IP regulations, that are all to often gamed and exploited, we can streamline processes that optimize patent quality and minimize barriers to research, development and growth. The US is undertaking these essential reforms not as part of an international negotiation, or to gain leverage in a quid-pro-quo bargain, but because it is the right thing to do. While we the debate for US patent reform has waged on for many years, as Churchill once aptly said, "The American people always do the right thing -- after they've tried every other alternative."

Now let me be clear: harmonization as I envision it is not about imposing the will of any country or group of countries onto another, or about challenging patent sovereignty in our IP ecosystem. These efforts are anchored in the desire to more effectively match the rate and pace of the patenting process to the rate and pace of invention, and the rate and pace commercialization. Ultimately the goal is to create not just simplest possible system, or a pre-determined system, but rather the most innovation-friendly and inventor-friendly system.

So the onus is on the world’s IP leaders—here today—to decide that whether we want to enhance and accelerate progress.  I believe we owe it to all of our country’s citizens to accelerate all discussions aimed at optimizing our global patent system. So I look forward to an earnest and thoughtful discussion with Mr. Battistelli and Mr. Iwai. A discussion that will empower us to build a system that incubates great ideas, offers the highest quality reviews, swiftly brings the best products to the marketplace, benefits innovators and governments alike, and writes the next chapter of economic growth for us all.

Thank you.

United States Patent and Trademark Office
This page is owned by Office of the Chief Communications Officer.
Last Modified: 7/7/2011 11:36:05 AM