Friday, January 18, 2008

EETimes discusses patent reform 2008

Rick Merritt of EETimes has an article titled Patent reform debate heads to U.S. Senate which includes the text:

The number of patent lawsuits heard in federal district courts doubled between 1988 and 2001, from 1,200 to nearly 2,400, according to a report from the National Research Council. Meanwhile, the number of patent attorneys in the United States rose 39 percent, more than six times the growth rate overall for attorneys, the report found. [Of course, "patent attorneys" are those who can prosecute patents before the USPTO, a different proposition from attorneys who litigate. Also, one notes that Professor Lemley, who advocates reform, is not a "patent attorney."]

The Senate's Patent Reform Act of 2007, introduced last April, generally follows the line of HR1908 which calls for the U.S. to shift from its first-to-invent to a first-to-file policy more in line with patent offices around the world. The first-to-file approach reduces sometimes thorny litigation aimed at establishing when concepts were invented and eases a path to global patent harmonization. [Interferences, arising BECAUSE OF the "first to invent" system are a MINISCULE part of the landscape of contested patents.]

Others said the bills in Congress fail to address fundamental issues in the process at the beleaguered patent office. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has a backlog of as many as 750,000 patent applications. The present Senate bill does say something about funding and the fee diversion issue.

The Merritt article did NOT mention post-grant review (aka opposition). But see the IPBiz post: Patent reform, again in 2008

The Merritt article did NOT note that S.1145, in current form, does NOT extend a grant of rule-making authority to the USPTO.
Without such a grant, the proposed new rules on continuing applications, currently enjoined by Judge Cacheris, are unlikely to survive. See also the letter of GSK of 16 Jan 08 to Senators Leahy and Specter.

The Merritt article did note:

The IEEE-USA came out strongly opposed to the bill, saying it would weaken the patent system and thereby harm an already bad job market for US engineers. The group also compiled a list of about 200 generally medium-sized companies and universities who opposed the bill. The list included some large concerns such as the AFL-CIO, the American Intellectual Property Lawyers Association, General Electric, Medtronic and Texas Instruments.


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