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Thursday Dec 18, 2014

IP Stakeholders Discuss Harmonization of Substantive Patent Law at USPTO Roundtable

Guest blog by Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs Shira Perlmutter

On Wednesday, November 19, 2014, the USPTO hosted a roundtable on International Harmonization of Substantive Patent Law at our headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Roundtables like this one are essential tools for the USPTO to hear and understand stakeholder views on key intellectual property topics and their effects on various stakeholder and public policy interests, and we were glad to have a broad representation of stakeholders join us for the event.

In her opening remarks, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee said that although the USPTO and offices around the world have in recent years invested significantly in work sharing, the lack of harmonized laws related to key examination issues remains a barrier to more efficient and effective reuse of work. These key issues include the definition and scope of prior art, the grace period, as well as issues related to conditions for patentability, including novelty and obviousness.

Following Deputy Under Secretary Lee’s remarks, Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino introduced patent experts from the USPTO, the Japan Patent Office, the European Patent Office, and the U.K. Intellectual Property Office, who presented reports on the results of recent surveys on specific harmonization issues, including the grace period.

The roundtable discussion that followed was moderated by Robert Armitage, former General Counsel for Eli Lilly and Company, and featured panelists representing a broad spectrum of U.S. stakeholder interests, including: Q. Todd Dickinson, former USPTO Director; Herb Wamsley, Executive Director, Intellectual Property Owners Association of America; Hans Sauer, Associate General Counsel, Biotechnology Industry Organization; and James Love, Director, Knowledge Ecology International.

The panelists gave their views on the importance of harmonization and its impacts on stakeholders and the public, and indicated a willingness to be flexible in achieving workable compromise solutions. We will use this input and the position of flexibility as we work with partner offices to determine an appropriate course to decrease work sharing barriers.

Throughout the next year, the USPTO Office of Policy and International Affairs will work closely with our international counterparts in Group B+, our group in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), to establish a clear path forward in patent law harmonization. Read Deputy Director Lee’s remarks to the heads of Group B+ offices at WIPO, September 23, 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Learn more about the Roundtable on International Harmonization of Substantive Patent Law or watch the webcast.

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