Posts in Legislation

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing: E-Commerce Platforms Have Curbed Infringement, But Counterfeits and Safety Problems Persist

The full Senate Judiciary Committee convened today for a hearing titled, “Cleaning Up Online Marketplaces: Protecting Against Stolen, Counterfeit, and Unsafe Goods,” in which witnesses explained the continuing challenges of policing stolen and counterfeit products in online marketplaces. The panelists included small business owners, internet platform advocates, academics and retail store representatives.

It’s Time to Address ‘Patent Mercenaries’—and the USPTO Already Has the Tools

In response to intense lobbying for patent litigation reform, Congress was convinced that a substantial amount of district court patent litigation involved “poor quality” patents that were clearly invalid. Images of extortionist patent trolls were widely portrayed as a primary threat to U.S. innovation. The high cost of patent litigation, years to reach a judicial resolution and reliance on lay juries to determine highly technical issues were cited as evidence of a broken system. In response, Congress passed the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) in 2011…. The current IPR system as implemented has caused severe damage to an important segment of our innovation community. Congress instructed the USPTO Director, in 35 USC§ 316(b), to “consider the effect of any such regulation on the economy, the integrity of the patent system, the efficient administration of the Office, and the ability of the Office to timely complete proceedings instituted under this chapter.” It is time for the Director to reevaluate the effect of IPRs.

COVID IP Waiver Attempts are Becoming Harder to Justify

Last week, at a meeting of the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), World Trade Organization (WTO) members had an opportunity to engage in small group and bilateral meetings to discuss the proposals by South Africa and India to waive patent and trade secret protections relative to COVID-19 innovations, as well as the proposal from the European Union regarding the use of current TRIPS compulsory licensing provisions during a pandemic. Some delegations believed the discussions were encouraging, while others expressed more skepticism, pointing out that a deal will not be achieved “unless delegations are able to make some real compromises.” See Members pursue convergence for IP COVID-19 response.

Coons and Hirono Raise Concerns Over Pride in Patent Ownership Act Penalties

During a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s IP Subcommittee today, Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) were the only senators present to question the Pride in Patent Ownership Act’s (PPOA’s) approach to penalizing patent owners who fail to record accurate ownership information within 90 days after the issuance date. The hearing included testimony from four witnesses on the topic of the PPOA introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) in September. Leahy explained in his introduction that the same fundamental principle of disclosure that underpins issuance of a patent should extend to patent ownership information. There is presently no requirement that ownership information be publicly available after a patent issues.

The Fintiv Deception: Leahy’s Legislative ‘Fix’ is Unwarranted in Light of Sotera Wireless

Several weeks ago, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the Restoring America Invents Act, which would reverse the reforms of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) introduced by former U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Andrei Iancu. The Senators claim that the legislation is necessary, among other reasons, to prevent undermining the Congressional intent in enacting the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA). According to Senator Leahy specifically, Director Iancu’s reforms politicized inter partes review (IPR) decisions by exercising discretion not to institute every IPR challenge filed by petitioners. “[Andrei Iancu] took actions that were designed to undermine the IPR process,” Leahy explained at a ceremony in September commemorating the 10th anniversary of the AIA. “[The Iancu reforms] hamstring the ability of the public to challenge poor-quality patents.”

Senator Tillis Letter to Ambassador Tai: TRIPS Waiver (Copyright)

Dear Ambassador Tai: I write you again today for the fourth time about the Biden Administration’s waiver of international obligations under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS agreement. Last week, several open-content organizations wrote to President Biden and argued that your proposed TRIPS Waiver should cover not just patents, but also copyright and other intellectual property rights. These organizations ask that you include copyright simply because it may apply to software, medicine labels, manuals, or “tools” associated with vaccines. The letter fails to address the importance of these protections to the economy, trade, and employment, the limitations placed on protections to ensure a balanced system, and how copyright protection facilitates the very innovation, creativity, and knowledge sharing that will make it possible for us to end this once in a lifetime pandemic. The inclusion of copyright is both unsubstantiated and unwarranted, and would impose devastating consequences on American creators, businesses and workers, while doing nothing to advance the objective of combatting COVID.

Beware the Shadow Statute: ALI’s Copyright Restatement Project is Quite the Fright

American creators know how to celebrate Halloween: Whether they’re writing a mystery novel, shooting a horror movie, or painting a calavera, they’re a huge part of the season. Unfortunately, this year, there’s a monster lurking that creators didn’t manufacture: The American Law Institute’s (ALI’s) Copyright Restatement Project. The ALI is an independent organization that produces and publishes academic papers, including “Restatements of Law”—papers on legal subjects that judges and lawyers can use as guidance. Most of the time, ALI’s restatements help advance uniformity and certainty in the court system. But their Copyright Restatement Project is a step in the wrong direction. In fact, it’s a step into a graveyard of killer consequences.

Stakeholders Speak: Leahy Bill to ‘Restore the AIA’ is Too Unbalanced to Pass

Last night, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) released the text of the “Restoring America Invents Act”, which is meant to “support American innovation and reduce litigation,” according to the headline of the senators’ joint statement on the legislation. Many in the patent community, however, are not as optimistic. As reported previously, the bill would essentially end discretionary denial practice under precedential Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) cases such as Apple Inc. v. Fintiv, Inc. and limit denial to petitions where “the same or substantially the same prior art or arguments previously were presented to the Office,” among other changes. Here is what a handful of stakeholders who have had a chance to review the bill had to say so far.

The ‘Restoring America Invents Act’ Would Open the Floodgates for Patent Owner Harassment

The much discussed, but previously unreleased, Restoring America Invents Act has finally been made public. The bill was submitted by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in what he described late last week as an attempt to reverse the reforms of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) made by former USPTO Director Andrei Iancu. Leahy promised to take aim at discretionary denials of inter partes review (IPR) and post grant review (PGR) challenges, which he did, among many other things.

The United States Must Step Up Its Support for R&D, Education

History is often defined by its most important technology, giving us eras such as the Bronze Age and the Industrial Revolution. Given their importance, the modern era may go down as the Semiconductor Age. But unless the United States begins making needed investments in this and other key technologies, the future may wind up being the Age of China. It is hard to overstate the importance of semiconductors. The most sophisticated of these computer chips help to control computers, airplanes, and even modern weapons systems. Less sophisticated versions are still critical components of our daily lives and power automobiles, TVs and home appliances. From an economic and national security standpoint, controlling our supply of semiconductors should be essential. Yet, U.S. companies have spent decades outsourcing and consolidating the manufacturing of this essential technology to other countries.         

Looming Leahy Bill Would End Fintiv Practice at PTAB

IPWatchdog has obtained a draft summary of the “Restoring the America Invents Act” bill that Senate IP Subcommittee Chair, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), is purportedly expected to introduce shortly. Several other outlets have reported that either Leahy himself or sources on the Hill confirmed such a bill is in the works and will address discretionary denial practice at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) under the PTAB’s precedential Apple Inc. v. Fintiv, Inc. decision, which sets out a list of factors that the Board will evaluate in deciding whether to discretionarily deny instituting a petition due to parallel district court litigation. The draft explains that the bill would require the USPTO to institute a proceeding if it meets the statutory standards, “with discretion to deny institution based on statutory considerations, so only one action goes forward at once.”

Senators Tear into Facebook and Google Reps During ‘Big Data, Big Questions’ Hearing on Competition and Privacy

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights held a hearing yesterday titled “Big Data, Big Questions: Implications for Competition and Consumers,” in which both Republican and Democratic senators pushed representatives of Facebook and Google to answer difficult questions about their platforms’ impact on everything from competitive marketplaces to teenagers’ body image. The hearing is one in a series that aims to conduct a bipartisan review of America’s competition issues, according to Subcommittee Chair, Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

New Tillis-Leahy Bills to Boost Innovation: The Good, the Bad and the Nonsense

Earlier today, U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the Ranking Member and Chair of the Senate Intellectual Property Subcommittee, introduced a pair of bipartisan bills that the Senators say are aimed at improving the participation Americans from all backgrounds in the patent system and ensuring that the public knows the true owners of patents. If enacted, the Unleashing American Innovators Act (UAIA) would require the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to establish another satellite office within three years somewhere in the Southeastern region of the nation, which the bill specifically defines as Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Of course, given that the main campus of the USPTO is located in Alexandria, Virginia, it would seem unlikely that Virginia would be the final destination of any Southeast Region satellite office. The UAIA would also require the Director to determine within two years whether any additional regional satellite offices are necessary to— in the words of the bill— “achieve the purposes described in section 24 23(b) of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act… and increase participation in the patent system by women, people of color, veterans, individual inventors, or members of any other demographic, geographic, or economic group that the Director may determine to be underrepresented in patent filings.”

A Kinder, Gentler ‘Death Squad’: Ten Years in, Despite Some Reforms, the USPTO is Still Killing U.S. Patents

Now that the 10th anniversary of the America Invents Act (AIA) has passed, we can look back not only at the past decade, but also the reactions of various interested parties and how they responded to that anniversary. There were two revolutionary amendments to U.S. patent laws enacted on September 16, 2011; one relating to the U.S. changing from first-to-invent to first-to-file, the other relating to the creation of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and three new procedural mechanisms to invalidate issued patents. While from a philosophical and practical point of view, the change from first-to-invent to first-to-file had the largest impact on patent practice, it has essentially become a footnote in patent history. Yes, the United States had a bizarre system that allowed the second filer in some instances (i.e., the first to invent) to obtain a patent over the first-to-file, but that almost never happened. And now, the United States has a strange, hybrid first-to-file system that still theoretically allows the first-to-invent to prevail in even rarer circumstances, but that change became easily baked into the system, because overwhelmingly, the first-to-invent did file first. The real story of the change to first-to-file is that much more is now prior art, including foreign filed applications as of their foreign filing date, typically, which continues the theme of the last 15+ years of making it harder to obtain and keep patent rights in the United States.

Celebrating (?) the America Invents Act: Ten Years On, Many IP Stakeholders Say it’s Time for a Second Look

During IPWatchdog LIVE 2021 in Dallas, Texas, I asked a handful of willing attendees for their thoughts on the impact of the America Invents Act (AIA) in anticipation of today, the ten-year anniversary of the day President Barack Obama signed the AIA into law. I began writing for Managing IP magazine in 2007 and remember well the lead-up to the law. The discussion centered mostly on the change from a first-inventor-to-invent to a first-inventor-to-file system, which was seen as a way to harmonize the United States with the rest of the world, but which many feared would be detrimental to U.S. innovation. Some of the most controversial provisions were ultimately dropped in order to get the law through Congress, and overall, the IP world was celebrating on September 16, 2011, that at least some action had been taken on reforming, and ostensibly strengthening, the U.S. patent laws.