This week in Washington IP news and events, both the Senate and the House of Representatives hold hearings looking at various aspects of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), including its impact on small businesses as well as ways that predictability and fairness in PTAB proceedings can be restored by Congress. Elsewhere, the American Enterprise Institute explores the current state of the debate over a waiver of international IP rights for COVID-19 vaccines, and IPWatchdog’s President and CEO Gene Quinn hosts a conversation with outgoing USPTO Commissioner of Patents Drew Hirshfeld and recently confirmed USPTO Director Kathi Vidal.
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.”
On June 8, a letter signed by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators was sent to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Kathi Vidal voicing concerns over the anti-competitive impacts of so-called “patent thickets,” especially in the drug industry. The senators’ letter urged Director Vidal to address issues of large numbers of patents granted to cover various aspects of a single pharmaceutical treatment, “primarily made up of continuation patents.” The letter, signed by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Braun (R-IL), advances a few claims about continuation filings that don’t come from any clear source.
This week in Washington IP news, the Subcommittee on Environment in the U.S. House of Representatives starts the week with a look at challenges impacting the future of weather research. Over in the U.S. Senate, the Judiciary Committee will consider several judicial nominations made by President Joe Biden, including one nomination for a circuit judgeship in the Second Circuit, a regional circuit which hears many appeals in intellectual property cases. Elsewhere, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office hosts the first PPAC meeting featuring Director Kathi Vidal, the American Enterprise Institute explores unfair Chinese practices including the theft of IP from Western countries, and the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation takes a closer look at the main elements and potential impacts of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed into law last November.
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.”
On June 8, news reports indicated that U.S. Senators from both sides of the political aisle were confident that the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee this January, has the necessary votes to pass the Senate and move on to the U.S. House of Representatives. While several top Senate lawmakers continue to argue that the bill will enact much needed antitrust enforcement mechanisms against Big Tech, the bill has several critics and has raised midterm election concerns for some Senators facing tough re-election cycles.
Following a late April request by Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) to then newly-confirmed United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Kathi Vidal asking her to respond to a number of questions surrounding abuse of the inter partes review (IPR) system, Vidal last week sent a letter explaining she is working on the problem. The senators’ April letter had expressed concern over Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) decisions to institute inter partes review (IPR) proceedings in OpenSky Industries, LLC v. VLSI Technology LLC and Patent Quality Assurance, LLC v. VLSI Technology LLC. “The facts and circumstances around these proceedings suggest petitioners OpenSky Industries, LLC (OpenSky) and Patent Quality Assurance, LLC (PQA) brought the proceedings to manipulate the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for their own financial gain,” explained the letter.
This week in Washington IP news, both houses of Congress remain quiet during regularly scheduled work periods. The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation gets the week started with an event exploring prospects for Congressional passage of the Bipartisan Innovation Act. The Center for Strategic & International Studies will host events discussing arguments for and against the United States’ adoption of a centralized digital currency, as well as efforts between the United States and South Korea to collaborate on critical areas of technology. Over at the Bipartisan Policy Center, competition and antitrust experts will also debate the effectiveness of current legislative proposals to rein in the market power of Big Tech.
This week in Washington IP news, the House Financial Services Committee explores the risks and benefits of any central bank digital currency that could potentially be adopted by the Federal Reserve, the House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee reviews the most recent Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey and its recommendation to send a robotic mission to the planet Uranus, and the House Government Operations Subcommittee looks at ways to support the Technology Modernization Fund for upgrading IT systems at federal agencies. Elsewhere, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation debates the potential impacts of a regulatory framework for AI technologies being drafted by the European Commission, while the Heritage Foundation looks at how the characteristics of Bitcoin intersect with American values.
This week in Washington IP news, several subcommittees in the House of Representatives take a closer look at President Joe Biden’s budgetary request for the 2023 fiscal year, which was released in late March. On Friday, the House Research and Technology Subcommittee explores ways that the federal government can support the workforce needs of the growing electric vehicle industry. Elsewhere, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation discusses the findings of its most recent annual report on federal funding for clean energy RD&D, while the American Enterprise Institute hosts a conversation with Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) on the prospects of the U.S. federal government adopting a centralized cryptocurrency despite the recent crypto crash.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) sent a letter today to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai asking that she “dramatically improve” transparency in the negotiations surrounding waiver of intellectual property rights under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The letter noted that details of the draft text of a waiver agreement were announced in March, before Congress had been briefed or shown the text. Most recently, a new draft was shared with all World Trade Organization (WTO) Member States that has caused controversy on all sides of the issue.
This week in Washington IP news, the Senate Science Committee convenes an executive session on Wednesday to deliberate over a pair of bills that would direct the Federal Communications Commission’s activities on establishing universal telecommunications services. Over in the House, the Investigation and Oversight Subcommittee and the Research and Technology Subcommittee explore issues in the use of open source systems for enterprise-level cybersecurity, the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee focuses on the federal government’s efforts to develop civil capabilities for space situational awareness, and the Task Force on Artificial Intelligence discusses issues related to the use of AI technologies in the growing regtech sector automatic complex regulatory processes in the financial industry
On April 28, Google’s General Counsel Halimah DeLaine Prado authored a post published on Google’s official blog to voice concerns felt by one of the world’s richest corporations that the U.S. patent system is currently in a state of growing crisis. The post offers several suggestions, each sanctioned by Google, as to steps that can be taken in all three branches of the U.S. federal government to address patent quality, abusive litigation and forum shopping. Unfortunately, the proposed reforms would help very little, if at all, toward improving certainty and clarity in patent rights in a way that would actually improve American innovation by supporting small startups and individual inventors in our country. Indeed, any informed observer of the U.S. patent system would recognize that Google’s proposed reforms would instead do a great deal to advance Google’s own business interests ahead of those startups and individual inventors who need the patent system to work in order to survive.
This week in Washington IP news, Senate committees are planning to host hearings on the applications that artificial intelligence can have in cyberspace, both for good and bad actors, as well as legislative proposals that could force social media platforms to increase transparency regarding algorithms for targeted advertising and news feeds. During the first half of the week, the International Trademark Association hosts its first in-person Annual Meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic began, although this year’s edition retains many virtual elements for registrants who cannot attend in person. Elsewhere, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation explores how national governments can improve active carbon management R&D, while both New America and the Heritage Foundation focus on Big Tech issues surrounding either legislative proposals on censorship or shareholder proposals on environmental and social issues.
Funeral services will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Friday, May 6, for Senator Orrin Hatch, who died on Saturday, April 23, 2022, at the age of 88. Hatch was Utah’s longest-serving senator, first sworn in by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller as a member of the 95th Congress in 1977, and co-author of one of the most significant IP bills ever passed, the 1984 Hatch-Waxman Act.