Welcome Remarks for USPTO's AIA "Roadshow" in Sunnyvale, CA
Under Secretary of Commerce for IP and Director of the USPTO David J. Kappos
February 24, 2012
AIA Roadshows – Sunnyvale, CA
Good morning everybody and thank you all for taking the time to attend this important forum on the implementation of the historic America Invents Act—the most significant change to the U.S. patent system since 1836. Having spent most of my professional career in the intellectual property (IP) field, I’ll be the first to admit that patents haven’t always been the hottest of topics. But among the cameras filming today’s event, the microphone you’ll ask your questions from, and even the smart phones some of you are checking email from at this very moment—patented and trademarked technologies that seek protection from the USPTO are constantly shaping the way we conduct our daily lives.
No longer is intellectual property a topic reserved for highly technical or specialized scientific and legal circles. IP now permeates all fields of interest, all layers of society and all parts of our daily lives. That’s exactly why the America Invents Act is an historic moment for our nation.
By building the world’s first and only 21st century patent system, equipped to manage the demands of a globalized economy, this new law enables a better resourced USPTO to grant IP rights with greater speed, greater quality and greater clarity. It also advances the president’s overall strategy of deploying American innovation to build businesses and build jobs. By cutting costs for independent inventors and entrepreneurs, issuing patents that diminish the likelihood for expensive court challenges, and providing tools to reach patent decisions three-times faster than in the past—the new law topples many existing structural impediments to business and technological growth.
As Deputy Director Rea and the entire USPTO team work diligently towards implementing various provisions of the historic America Invents Act, an ongoing dialogue with our user community is vital. Not only for us to remain transparent in the process of implementing the new law, but also to ensure your input helps guide and shape our efforts.
That’s why as a part of our ongoing, global outreach efforts to engage the public about the AIA, we’ve embarked on a seven-city tour across the country to explain the thinking behind the proposed rules for various provisions under the AIA, including supplemental examination, inter partes review, and post grant review, among others. We’ve also conducted two sets of hearings on the new patent fees USPTO has proposed, as well as hearings on the intersection of genetic testing and gene patents, all just within the last several weeks.
While the conversation we have today and in other cities may span the entire breadth of the AIA—I want to share the guiding philosophies behind our proposed rules that my colleagues will be specifically addressing today. First, the USPTO is committed to the strategic imperative set forth by our user community to build a more efficient patent system that brings speed, quality, and certainty to IP rights. Second, we must operate responsibly, and ensure that we have a sustainable funding model in order to continue being able to deliver the very services that bring you to our Office in the first place. Under the current challenging economic times, this notion is not a “want” or a “luxury”—it is quite fundamentally a necessity if USPTO is to timely protect new technologies in the global marketplace. Third, in order to empower applicants to make more strategic, cost-effective, and informed decisions about how they prosecute their patents, we must offer more tailored options and more paths to move technology through the patent system.
So let’s talk about how specific provisions of the new law meet these three standards.
The ability to set and access our fees—to recover the actual costs of the services we provide—is enabling us to hire new examiners, streamline processes, and modernize our IT infrastructure to build out more user-friendly, efficient, and quality focused information technology systems. And to make good on the promise outlined to our user community in the USPTO Strategic Plan, we’re offering inventors the opportunity to have important patents reviewed super-quickly with a new fast track option that guarantees 12-month turnaround. The Track I prioritized examination provisions allow the USPTO to move with urgency when needed and bring patented American ingenuity—that will define the next era of our nation’s growth—to the marketplace faster.
The AIA also enables us to bring online the additional resources needed to further combat the backlog of unexamined patent applications. Under the Obama administration, the patent backlog has been reduced from over 750,000 patent applications to less than 652,000, despite a 5.3% increase in filings last year. But additional resources provided in the law are allowing us to push that number down even further, and even faster—unclogging the backlog and putting Americans to work.
The AIA also establishes a new in-house review process for challenging granted patents—a process that is much faster and cheaper than litigation. By resolving disputes about patent rights earlier, more efficiently, and at lower cost, we will add greater certainty to—and cultivate greater confidence in—the American patent system. That confidence, in turn, will invite more companies to do business in the United States, and will inspire individuals to work towards the next great medical and nanotech breakthroughs that will sustain America’s visionary leadership for decades to come.
Now, while speed and certainty are essential to a well-functioning U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, patent quality is of utmost importance to any fit-for-purpose patent system and we are deeply committed to ensuring high patent quality under the AIA.
With our new patent law, the U.S. will enjoy simple and clear standards for assessing patentability—standards easily applied by examiners and applicants alike. And of course the foundation for quality is always built on clear, objective and simple standards. The new law also permits third party submissions of prior art. In the era of tools like Wikipedia, allowing the USPTO to harness the Internet and crowd-source the search for prior art helps patent examiners widen the scope of their review and offers applicants heightened confidence in the validity of their patents once issued. Moreover the ability to challenge patents in-house through cost-effective review processes, adds a strong backstop on the quality of issued patents.
The sheer tonnage of these provisions are certainly proving a challenge to implement. Heck, they’re a challenge just to comprehend! And of course, it’s what the USPTO and its user community does to implement the various provisions of AIA that will ultimately guide how the law impacts inventors everywhere. The rules packages and ideas that we go over with you today aren’t set in stone, and indeed will be effective only with your feedback and your collaboration. Put simply, they’re not done, until you say they’re done.
That’s why it’s my pleasure to kick off this AIA Roadshow. In its totality, the America Invents Act fosters a nimble and strong IP infrastructure for our country, allowing businesses to grow and technologies to flourish, by leveraging inventive efforts with the fulcrum of a U.S. patent—the currency of innovation in this 21st century. It’s designed to enhance the timely due process deserved by every applicant using our system to grow their business.
So I want to thank my USPTO colleagues for putting together today’s forum, and for speaking on behalf of the Agency in explaining our proposed rules—but more than anything I want thank each and every member of the public joining us today. Your participation is not only a service to your nation and the American IP system, but it also puts you at the forefront of helping us shape a patent system that’s built to last. So even after our session today ends, keep collaborating, and keep participating by visiting www.uspto.gov/americainventsact.
To help Americans make the most of our new patent law—the Agency needs all of you to speak up, and offer your thoughts on our proposed rules to make sure we get them right. The conversation we have today will guide our country’s patent system for years to come, so thank you again for your input – and I look forward to our ongoing collaboration.