Saturday, June 25, 2005

Judge Pauline Newman urges caution in patent reform



Congress should proceed slowly on recently introduced legislation that would alter the U.S. patent system, according to a panel of federal judges, who said more review is needed before moving forward with broad reforms.

Judge Pauline Newman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit urged Congress to tread cautiously on patent reform until more economic and statistical analysis is conducted on the issue. "There's this sense [in Congress] that there are flaws in the system and in the way patents are treated in litigation," Newman told attendees at a patent reform conference [on June 9, 2005] sponsored by the FTC, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Intellectual Property Law Association in Washington, D.C.
"The thought that too many patents are being upheld is something that needs a firmer economic and statistical evaluation than I have seen so far."

[LBE note: the "patent grant rate" saga is but one example of this.]

Newman's comments centered on The Patent Reform Act of 2005, H.R. 2795, which was unveiled by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas). The bill would result in sweeping changes to existing patent laws, including a switch from the current first-to-file patent system to a first-inventor-to-file system, the transfer of inequitable conduct proceedings from the courts to an administrative body within the Patent and Trademark Office, limits on the circumstances in which patent applicants may file a continuation, and the creation of a new postgrant opposition system.

While Smith contends such changes are needed to curb patent abuses in the U.S., Newman said Congress and industry need to examine the impact of the proposal on a broad national and global scale before moving forward with the legislation.


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