U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke will belatedly commemorate World Intellectual Property Day on Thursday, May 5, 2011, in a ceremony at the Rayburn House Office Building in the House Judiciary Committee hearing room. The event will take place starting at 4:00 pm. Secretary Locke’s remarks will begin at approximately 4:10 pm, and he is expected to highlight the importance of intellectual property protection and enforcement to the U.S. economy, celebrating the 11th anniversary of World Intellectual Property Day. World Intellectual Property Day is April 26, 2011, each year.
Earlier today the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia vacated the preliminary injunction issued by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia preventing the federal government from funding stem cell research. Meanwhile, the patenting of stem cells is also currently under attack in Europe. According to European Union Advocate General M. Yves Bot, stem cells have the capacity to evolve into a complete human being and, therefore, must be legally classified as human embryos and must be excluded from patentability on moral grounds. But is it really moral not to perform research that many believe could hold promising cures for such diseases as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s?
Did World Intellectual Property Day sneak up on you again this year? How could you let that happen? At a time when the United States Congress seems hell bent on destroying the patent system by inadequately funding the United States Patent and Trademark Office we really should celebrate something that seems to be functioning, so why not celebrate the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the innovation policies of nations who are stealing research and development away from the United States? What a tragedy that the World has better innovation policies than the United States.
International trademark activity recovered during 2010, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which received 39,687 applications under the 85-member Madrid System for the International Registration of Trademarks (“the Madrid system”). This increase in application from 2009 to 2010 represents a 12.8% rate of growth. Growth was the largest for the Republic of Korea (+42.2%), China (+42%), Italy (+38.7%), United States of America (+29.6%), European Union (+26.9%) and Japan (+20.2%).
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) recently announced that the number of cybersquatting cases has reached an all time high. In 2010, trademark holders filed 2,696 cybersquatting cases relating to some 4,370 domain names with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (WIPO Center) under procedures based on the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). This spike in the number of domain name disputes caused by cybersquatting represents an increase of 28% over the 2009 level and of 16% over the previous record year, 2008.
The China Road Show is a series of two-day China IP events that the USPTO is hosting across the country to help educate businesses about the realities of piracy and counterfeiting—which cost the American economy approximately $250 billion annually. Day 1 is largely devoted to understanding the patent, trademark and copyright laws in China, as well as enforcement of those rights. Day 2 of the seminar will address § 337 Infringement Investigations by the International Trade Commission (ITC), the challenges presented by counterfeiting and piracy on the Internet and the development of global IP strategies even for small businesses.
Believe it or not, Patents are enforceable in China. Trademarks are enforceable in China. Copyrights are enforceable in China. The devil is in the details. Certainly if you are trying to enforce your patent against a company in the boondocks far west of Chengdu, and that company happens to be the largest employer in the district, then you are going to have problems. No one can / should tell you differently. However, can you tell me with a straight face that these same problems would not occur in the US if the situation was reversed – where a foreigner is asserting a patent against a local, respected employer in a rural area of the US?
During my interview with Secretary Locke we spoke about patent reform efforts in the United States Senate, what patent reform might look like from the House of Representatives, his management style and how to motivate individuals to achieve transformative change. Secretary Locke strikes me as a thoughtful person, extremely energetic, motivated to succeed and the type of person we need in government. His CEO-like approach to running the Department of Commerce and in working together with both political appointees and career employees has transformed the Patent Office, and he will be missed. I’m sure he will make an excellent Ambassador, but have to wonder about the future of the Department of Commerce and the Patent Office. Whoever becomes the next Secretary of Commerce has some big shoes to fill.
The survey assesses the impact of the U.S. economy on global IP strategies for 2011, and is available for free to anyone interested in the results. The survey includes a number of interesting findings, including among these are that 88% of respondents say they were in favor of a European Wide Patent System (which isn’t surprising really), only 19% of respondents said they filed fewer patent application in 2010 (which probably contradicts the convention wisdom of many) and 46% of respondents brought work in house in 2010 (which might not bode well for firms heavily leveraged on work from large corporations).
In New Zealand, patents (equivalent to utility patents in the USA), registered designs (viz. US design patent) and trademarks are subject to normal substantive examination processes. Fortunately, due to smaller backlogs and a less bureaucratic system, overseas applications filed into NZ are often examined within a year of filing. Accelerated examination may also be requested with no official fee where applicants need a quicker indication as to the validity of their rights. Further, if you have a corresponding patent right granted in another major patent office, the NZ process can be accelerated assuming the NZ claims are similar to that in the corresponding right.
The gene patents issue had been simmering in Australia for some time, with a Senate Enquiry into the subject having been underway for over a year, but with the Myriad decision in the US, and the Australian litigation, it exploded into the headlines. Within the space of a few months, gene patents became the subject of numerous news articles and opinion pieces (including one by the former leader of the Opposition, and current Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband, Malcolm Turnbull), and a major report on the Australian national broadcaster’s flagship current affairs program Four Corners. Almost all of this coverage was generally critical of ‘gene patents’, without ever providing a satisfactory definition of the term.
While 2010 was quite an eventful year for IP in Australia and New Zealand, this still does not equate to dozens of potential stories to pick from, given the relatively small populations involved. So in the end it was not hard to come up with a “top eight.” As for my selection criteria, I have simply chosen those cases, events and themes that seemed significant to me from a professional perspective, or that captured the attention – and even the imagination – of the broader public.
It is unfortunate for businesses, but China is becoming practically synonymous with intellectual property theft, piracy and counterfeiting. On top of that, many technology companies are learning that doing licensing deals with the Chinese means they turn over the technologies and as soon as the Chinese corporation is capable of employing the technology the sever the relationship and then compete against American companies with American technology, they just don’t have to recoup the research and development costs and they have a cheap labor force.
Building on more than a quarter century of cooperation, the Trilateral Offices continued to focus on addressing global patent workload challenges, in particular, decreasing pendency and examination backlogs, improving patent quality, and leveraging IT solutions to simplify and speed up processing of patent applications.
Unfortunately for those who support a single European patent, negotiations broke down on Wednesday evening and the status quo will remain. According to the Financial Times the sticking point was with respect to languages that patents would be translated into, with Span and to a lesser extent Italy being unhappy with the prominence of English, French and German.