Tillis, Spartz Ask Vidal to Step Up Help to Ukraine IP Office

“The number of PCT applications filed in 2022 dropped by over 40% compared to pre-war levels. This threatens the financial stability of the UANIPIO and employment of its highly skilled examiners.” – Tillis/Spartz Letter

Ukraine IP OfficeSenator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Representative Victoria Spartz (R-IN) sent a letter on Monday to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Kathi Vidal imploring her to take steps to strengthen the Ukrainian National Office for Intellectual Property and Innovations (UANIPIO) in the face of Ukraine’s ongoing war with Russia.

Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and, as recently as yesterday, continues attacks on civilians, having moved into northeastern Ukraine earlier this month.

According to the letter, UANIPIO scored 100% on the World Intellectual Property Office’s (WIPO) recent “PCT Yearly Review” for timeliness in transmitting international search reports to the International Bureau. However, “the number of PCT applications filed in 2022 dropped by over 40% compared to pre-war levels,” said the letter. “This threatens the financial stability of the UANIPIO and employment of its highly skilled examiners.”

Citing to an article written by former USPTO Director David Kappos in 2022, Tillis and Spartz proposed three initiatives Vidal should undertake to help the Ukranian Office and “mitigate the intellectual property implications of this war.”

First, the letter said the USPTO should initiate a Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) pilot program with UANIPIO “to accelerate patent examination based on favorable decisions of patentability by either country.”  Second, the USPTO should authorize UANIPIO to act as an international searching and preliminary examining authority for international patent applications received by the USPTO, as a means of “strengthening the capacity and international standing of UANIPIO.” And finally, the USPTO should “offer capacity-building programs and training for Ukrainian patent examiners at the USPTO’s Global Intellectual Property Academy (GIPA),” said the letter. “By providing technical assistance and expertise, the USPTO can play a crucial role in enhancing the skills and capabilities of Ukrainian patent examiners, ensuring their continued effectiveness in the face of adversity.”

In a February 26, 2022, open letter, the National Association of Patent Attorneys of Ukraine called upon industry associations, national IP offices, IP attorneys and law firms to cut all ties with Russian members/ clients, remove Russian representatives from management positions and ban all Russian members from participation in events.

The USPTO announced in March 2022 that it would terminate engagement with the Russian IP Office (Rospatent) as well as the Eurasian Patent Organization (EAPO) and the IP Office of Belarus, which has been cooperating with Russia during the invasion of Ukraine. It also announced it would no longer grant requests to participate in the Global Patent Prosecution Highway (GPPH) at the USPTO when those requests are based on work performed by Rospatent as an Office of Earlier Examination. And, in pending cases where the Office granted special status under the GPPH to applications based on work performed by Rospatent, “the USPTO will remove that status and return those applications to the regular processing and examination queue, meaning that they will no longer be treated as GPPH applications at the USPTO,” said a USPTO statement at the time.

The European Patent Office made a similar announcement.

Separately—and, like the USPTO announcements, based on guidance issued by the U.S. Department of State—the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) said that it would be restricting the export, reexport and transfer of luxury goods to Russia and Belarus, as well as to Russian oligarchs worldwide.

But the Kappos article cited by Monday’s letter said that “in addition to sanctioning Ukraine’s aggressors, the USPTO should also take the following concrete steps to directly help Ukraine’s patent office…and Ukraine’s economy.”

In July 2023, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) announced a partnership with UANIPIO designed to “strengthen Ukraine’s intellectual property system and bolster its institutional capacity to the benefit of businesses and citizens in Ukraine and the EU.” The deal meant Ukraine gained access to harmonization tools for trademark and design registration and other benefits. It also allowed Ukrainian small and medium-sized enterprises to apply for funding through the EUIPO’s 2023 Ideas Powered for Business SME Fund.

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