Tuesday, 8 April 2014

News from the USPTO: international cooperation and current efforts to curtail abusive litigation

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has recently announced the creation of a new Office of International Patent Cooperation (OIPC), to support the on-going process of patent harmonization and the international patent examination system. The initiative also aims to increase certainty of intellectual property rights, while contextually coordinating efforts to reduce the costs borne by stakeholders. According to the press release:
While the USPTO has been effective in carrying out its international mission through such programs as the Patent Prosecution Highway, the Global Patent Search Network, the Cooperative Patent Classification system, and the new Global Dossier Initiative, creation of the new office will enable USPTO to focus dedicated resources to better implement its international patent cooperation efforts. The main focus of the office, working in concert with the Office of Policy and International Affairs and the Office of the Chief Information Officer, is to provide optimized business process solutions to the international patent examination system for examiners and external stakeholders.
The OIPC, which 'reflects USPTO’s strong commitment to work with global stakeholders and intellectual property offices to develop means to increase quality and create new efficiencies within the complex processes of international patent rights acquisition', will be led by Mark Powell, a former patent examiner and director of the telecommunications examination operation, who spent several years as an expert in international cooperative activities within the Office of Policy and International Affairs.

Besides announcing the creation of the OIPC, USPTO Deputy Director Michelle Lee discussed the current legislative proposals to address abusive patent litigation, intervening at the 29th Annual Intellectual Property Law Conference of the American Bar Association. According to Law360's report, Lee called for a cautious approach, highlighting the importance of strengthening the enforcement of the inventors' rights, without stifling innovation:
Every one of us in the business of intellectual property shares a common conviction that our patent system is too important to treat lightly or hastily[.] We have to find that balance, or sweet spot, where our patent laws and processes provide the strong protection innovators need, without the kind of red tape, delays, or frivolous litigation that stifles innovation.
The USPTO, which is actively working with Congress on the pending proposals, announced, in January 2014, a proposal to require disclosure of the attributable owner, including the ultimate parent entity, during the pendency of a patent application and at specified times during the life of a patent. The measure seeks 'to facilitate the examination of patent applications and to provide greater transparency concerning the ownership of patent applications and patents' - public comments may be submitted until 24 April 2014. Deputy Director Lee stated that the agency is also encouraging the adoption of measures specifically carved (i) to protect the downstream users of commonly available technologies from abusive litigation, and (ii) to streamline the complex and expensive process of patent litigation.

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