Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Progress and Freedom Foundation hosts seminar on patent reform

CNNMoney noted:

At a seminar hosted by right-of-center think tank the Progress and Freedom Foundation, senior lawyers with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) were all in agreement that it seems increasingly likely that Congress will pass some form of reform to the country's patent laws.

CNN also noted:

A bill that has the support of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in both houses of Congress - a rare achievement - is winding its way through the legislative process.

While it so far has not encountered any real opposition, the legislation likely faces substantial redrafting before it reaches either chamber floor for a full debate and vote.

There are a number of controversial aspects to the bill, including an attempt to provide more stringent guidance to judges when they are determining damages against patent infringers, and plans for a two-stage system for challenging patents after they are granted.
[IPBiz: apportionment of damages AND post-grant opposition.]

Of applications, John Whealan said that in 2006, the Patent Office received around 400,000 applications for new patents, a far greater number than could realistically be processed by government officials. IPBiz query: and why didn't the USPTO have enough people to do its job? Whealan suggested that were the application fee to be increased from its current $ 1,000 to $5,000 or $10,000, it could deter some of the less genuine applicants.

Separately, IPBiz got a chuckle over an article by June Arney at the Baltimore Sun entitled Law firms on hunt for patent attorneys.

The text included:

There are multiple reasons for the high demand and scant supply of attorneys schooled in the intricacies of patent law, and they are rooted in an explosion in the number of applications and patents issued over two decades.

Applications have more than tripled in that time, to more than 440,000 last year, with about 184,000 patents being issued, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Meanwhile, about 3 percent of the nation's 1.1 million active lawyers specialize in the demanding field, which requires scientific or technical expertise in addition to a law degree. Patent lawyers also must pass a specialized test on top of the regular bar exam. Maryland has about 230 intellectual property lawyers, according to the state bar association.
[IPBiz: 3% would be 33,000]

The article quotes Avis Caravello:

But the demand for patent lawyers vastly outweighs the supply, she said.

"If I had the right ones, I could place as many as there were hours in the day," said Caravello, a lawyer and principal at the search consultant firm that bears her name. "When I get a candidate like that, it really is 'Where do you want to work?'"

The article also noted:

Paychecks reflect the high value placed on these specialized lawyers. An IP partner at a top firm typically is hired at $700,000 or $800,000, even $1 million a year, with the most meager book of business - the work that comes with them, Caravello said. First-year associates at large firms can expect a 10 percent to 15 percent premium over base pay of about $160,000.

Firms opening new IP offices typically are given war chests by their home offices so they can sweeten offers with signing bonuses or whatever it might take, Caravello said.

One even has text from Ocean Tomo:

James E. Malackowski, chief executive of Ocean Tomo LLC, an intellectual property investment bank, said he believes that the demand for IP lawyers will continue, reflecting a shift in the nation's economic base.

"I don't think in the next five years you're going to see any slowing," he said. "We really have gone through an intellectual revolution much like the industrial revolution of 100 years ago. IP is not a flash in the pan like some would say the hopeful business models of the dot-com era were."

IPBiz notes that intelproplaw has 50 job openings since June 4, 2007 (which includes many for patent agents and other non-lawyers) and of which many are re-cycled from previous dates. Not one posting was for a job in Baltimore, but there was an opening for the position of Assistant Attorney General in The Republic of Palau. There is a June 22 posting from Lee & Hayes in Spokane, which includes the text: According to salary.com, the cost-of-living in a place such as San Jose, CA is about 40% higher than it is in Spokane. Pearl Cohen has an opening for "patent assistant" and Monsanto has an opening for "patent scientist" in Ankeny, Iowa.

"When you have a really good candidate who everyone wants, you don't want to lose out over a couple hundred thousand dollars," she said.


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