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USPTO’s Plain Language Toolkit Empowers Public on Patent Litigation
Blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee
Following President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union call to curb abusive patent litigation, I joined with the National Economic Council and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to announce the progress the USPTO had made in response to some of the president’s executive actions on the subject. This included one to publish an online Patent Litigation Toolkit to empower and inform “Main Street” retailers and consumers that may have been threatened with a patent lawsuit or received a demand letter. It was developed to provide plain language answers to key questions. Today I would like to provide further detail on the toolkit and how it might be useful to you.
The online toolkit features several Web pages containing plain language answers to commonly asked questions about demand letters and patent infringement complaints, such as:
• what a patent is,
• what to do if sued for patent infringement, and
• what to do after receiving a demand letter.
To the extent that legal terms are included, the toolkit has a useful glossary to ensure that consumers and “Main Street” retailers are on the same page. By presenting the information in as straightforward a manner as possible, the USPTO sees this toolkit as a first-stop for people learning about their rights and trying to understand the various courses of action available under their circumstances.
The toolkit also features links to many external websites offering certain services free of charge (some with site registration required) that may assist persons faced with demand letters or infringement suits.
For example, if you’ve received a demand letter or patent infringement complaint and want to determine how best to proceed, it’s useful to collect as much information as possible about the patent being asserted. With this in mind, the toolkit provides links to sites that help identify whether others have been sued regarding the same patent. This can help you locate parties who might have faced similar issues. Additionally, the toolkit links to sites with information about other legal proceedings involving the patent, including proceedings before the USPTO.
The toolkit provides access to a patent attorney database, and it features information about law school clinics that have programs to advise and/or represent entities such as small inventors and entrepreneurs who otherwise would not have access to high-quality intellectual property law services.
While nothing in the toolkit constitutes legal advice or should be considered to replace advice from an attorney, I hope that you find the toolkit a helpful resource of information to get started. I applaud the efforts of those in the private sector making information publicly available so that everyone can better navigate the ever-evolving intellectual property landscape and together build an ever-stronger intellectual property system.
Thanks to the ongoing input we have received, we continually hone this “evergreen” resource to provide plain language information to empower the public. I encourage you to continue to help make the toolkit an even more powerful resource by sharing the challenges you may be facing by using the comment/suggestion box at the bottom of each page of the toolkit. What you share with us gives us ideas on how to make the toolkit even more useful.