Posts in Legislation

Tillis Addresses Criticism of His Eligibility Reform Bill, Warns WD of TX Not to Backtrack on Standing Order

Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) has been perhaps the most active and passionate Congress person when it comes to intellectual property (IP) rights, and patents specifically, in recent history. In early August, he released the first draft of the Patent Eligibility Restoration Act of 2022, which if enacted would abrogate the Supreme Court’s decisions in Ass’n for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., 133 S.Ct. 2107 (2013) and Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., 132 S.Ct. 1289 (2012). He has also been closely involved with oversight of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on topics such as patent quality and has written numerous letters to the Biden Administration on issues including the waiver of IP obligations under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, the theft of U.S. IP by Chinese companies, and more. While he seemed fairly exasperated by the end of his last attempt at eligibility reform in 2019, he explains below that the Supreme Court’s refusal to fix the problem by denying the American Axle case inspired him to revive his efforts.

EFF Vows to Take Out Tillis’ Eligibility Bill

Last week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) announced that it is launching a campaign against Senator Thom Tillis’ (R-NC) proposed “Patent Eligibility Restoration Act of 2022,” which would effectively abrogate the Supreme Court’s decisions in Ass’n for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., 133 S.Ct. 2107 (2013) and Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., 132 S.Ct. 1289 (2012). The EFF’s post claimed the bill “would tear down some of the public’s only protections from the worst patent abuses.” While many in the patent community welcomed Tillis’ renewed attempt at clarifying U.S. patent eligibility law, others said the bill would create more problems by failing to clearly define terms like “technological” and including language that would be problematic for software patents.

Streamlining Patent Examination: Amendments to Canada’s Patent Rules Coming Into Effect Soon

Responding to the patent term adjustment obligation under the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) and to “streamline the patent examination process”, the Canadian government has registered major changes to the Canadian Patent Rules. The amendments will come into effect on October 3, 2022, and include notable modifications to the patent application examination process, such as establishing excess claim fees for over 20 claims, fees for continuing examination beyond three office actions, and offering conditional notice of allowance.

CHIPS and Science Act Neglects the Importance of IP Rights in Encouraging American Innovators

On August 9, President Joe Biden signed into law the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act, enacting a major legislative package that will provide $280 billion in federal funding to encourage the domestic production of semiconductor products in the United States as well as fund research and development projects in advanced technological fields like quantum computing and artificial intelligence. Although the 1,000+ page bill establishes massive investments into several areas of developing technologies, it focuses very little on the intellectual property rights that are critical for protecting the new technologies that would be developed through federally funded projects.

A Plea to Senator Tillis: Words Matter in Section 101 Reform

In U.S. government, setting public policy is the sole and exclusive domain of Congress. The laws they pass effectuate the public policy positions that Congress alone has the power to set. In law, words are everything. The precise meaning of the words in law determines whether the public policy is implemented as intended by Congress. Altering the meaning of just one word can change the entire public policy set by Congress, even turning the public policy on its head. Anyone following the debate on patent eligibility can attest to how the Supreme Court’s redefinition of the word “any” in 35 U.S.C. § 101 to have an exception called an “abstract idea” caused a significant public policy change and that change destroyed countless startups, especially those in tech. Senator Tillis’ Patent Eligibility Restoration Act of 2022, S.4734, wrongly puts the courts in charge of defining public policy because it leaves key words completely undefined.

Tillis’ Promised Patent Eligibility Bill Would Overrule Myriad, Mayo

Today, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), the Ranking Member of the Senate IP Subcommittee, released the first draft of the Patent Eligibility Restoration Act of 2022, which if enacted would, at a minimum, overrule the Supreme Court’s decisions in Ass’n for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., 133 S.Ct. 2107 (2013) and Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., 132 S.Ct. 1289 (2012)…. This legislation would absolutely be a solution to many of the patent eligibility problems that have plagued the industry for the last decade. Of course, if the tech giants in Silicon Valley think this will hurt them the bill will be killed, period.

A Cautious Welcome: Patent Community Chimes in on Tillis’ Eligibility Bill

This morning, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced the Patent Eligibility Restoration Act of 2022, S.4734, which would amend the U.S. Patent Act to clarify the application of 35 U.S.C. Section 101 to certain technologies. While the bill was welcomed by many in the intellectual property (IP) community, since it would abrogate or weaken many of the seminal decisions that have arguably caused confusion on eligibility over the last decade-plus, some have called the bill out as being far from perfect. Questions remain with respect to the text’s language regarding the definition of “technological” and what it means for software patents, for instance, as some commenters note below.

Senate Judiciary Committee Advances USPTO-FDA Collaboration Bill Toward Floor Vote

Earlier today, the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary convened a brief executive business meeting to discuss a series of judicial nominees selected by the Biden Administration, as well as a pair of proposed bills. One of those bills, the Interagency Patent Coordination and Improvement Act of 2022, follows various efforts to limit certain patent rights in the pharmaceutical industry and was passed favorably out of the Committee via voice vote toward a full vote on the Senate floor.

House IP Subcommittee Drills Down on GAO’s Preliminary Findings that PTAB Judges are Being Influenced by USPTO Leadership

The House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet today held Part II in a series of hearings to consider reforms to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) 10 years after it was created by the America Invents Act (AIA). The hearing, titled “The Patent Trial and Appeal Board After 10 Years, Part II: Implications of Adjudicating in an Agency Setting,” coincided with the release of a preliminary report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) that was commissioned in June of last year by IP Subcommittee Chair Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Ranking Member Darrell Issa (R-CA) to investigate PTAB decision-making practices. The GAO’s preliminary findings revealed that “the majority of [administrative patent] judges (75 percent) surveyed by GAO responded that the oversight practiced by U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) directors and PTAB management has affected their independence, with nearly a quarter citing a large effect on independence.”

The TRIPS Waiver: What Does it Mean to Change the Rules of the Game?

A terrible idea – wayward and ill-conceived, criticized by all economic, political and geopolitical fronts – has come to fruition. The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) TRIPs waiver on patents related to COVID-19 vaccines will disincentivize the entire industry from investing in vaccine production. To understand what happens next, let’s understand history first.

Senate IP Subcommittee Starts Dialogue on Reforming the PTAB

Today, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property met to hear testimony from four witnesses about proposed changes to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) as outlined in the recently announced PTAB Reform Act. Subcommittee Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ranking Member Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the bill last week. Those testifying generally agreed the bill represents compromise and, at Tillis’ prompting, on a scale of green to red, scored it a green to yellow overall.

WTO Announces COVID Vaccine Waiver Deal That Virtually No One Wants

Following a week of round-the-clock deliberations, the World Trade Organization (WTO) this morning announced a deal on waiver of IP rights for COVID-19 vaccine technologies under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The final text has made almost no one happy and largely mirrors the draft text going into negotiations, with a few key changes. With respect to open questions in the draft text, the final agreement indicates that all developing country WTO Members will be considered eligible to take advantage of the waiver, but that those with “existing capacity to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines are encouraged to make a binding commitment not to avail themselves of this Decision.” This language is primarily targeted at China, which has publicly stated that it would not use the waiver provision but had objected to language based on percentage of global vaccine exports that would have categorically excluded it. The draft text had encouraged members with vaccine export capabilities to opt out rather than to make a binding commitment.

‘Sacrifices’: PTAB Reform Act Would Limit Fintiv Denials

Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) today introduced the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) Reform Act of 2022, which is meant to tackle gamesmanship at the PTAB. In April, Senators Leahy and Tillis penned an op-ed that announced such a bill would be introduced “in the coming days”, but it never materialized. The bill makes a number of key changes to PTAB procedures, including explaining that “the right to appeal shall extend at least to any dissatisfied party that reasonably expects that another person will assert estoppel against the party under section 325(e) as a result of the decision.”

The Bayh-Dole System Just Keeps Rollin’ Along – Despite Attempts to Throw it Off Track

How about some good economic news? That’s in short supply these days as the nation teeters on the brink of recession, driven by raging inflation and skyrocketing gas prices. But in good times and bad, our technology transfer system created by the Bayh-Dole Act just keeps chugging along. A just released study by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and AUTM, which represents the academic technology management profession, shows that academic patent licensing contributed up to $1.9 trillion to the U.S. economy while supporting 6.5 million jobs between 1996 – 2020. Even more impressively, this impact increased substantially since the last survey was released three years ago. That showed an economic impact of $1.7 trillion with 5.9 million jobs supported.

WTO Conference Could End with Agreement on COVID Vaccine IP Waiver This Week

The World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) 12th Ministerial Conference is set to take place this week, June 12-15, at WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. As part of the four-day meeting, discussions around the latest text of the proposal to waive intellectual property (IP) rights under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for COVID-19 vaccine technology will take place around the clock, and it is expected that some agreement will be reached. TRIPS Council Chair, Ambassador Lansana Gberie of Sierra Leone, said on June 7 that “delegations have entered into real negotiation mode in the last 24 hours,” and that she is “feeling cautiously optimistic now that we will get this text ready for adoption by ministers in time for the coming weekend.”


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