One ingredient that distinguishes a good patent portfolio from a great patent portfolio can be the synergistic strength of its U.S. and European patent family members. To develop this strength, it is not enough to have a U.S. attorney and a European attorney simply coordinate the procedural strategy for filing an application; rather, the drafter and manager of the application should analyze important issues upfront and prepare a patent application that accounts for the substantive differences between U.S. examination, U.S. courts, European examination, and national courts in Europe.
Vice-Chief Judge Moore: “The statute requires that each of the judges have scientific ability. It doesn’t actually require particularized training in any one individual specific area. Permit me to key off of what the Chief said earlier — we do use that to advantage in some instances. For example, imagine a software controlled electro-mechanical device which is useful in a biotechnology operation. I could throw four different judges with four different specialties – biotech, electrical, mechanical, and software – on that so that that panel as a whole could understand it better and help each other through the process. And that is a huge advantage. We have at least one team here at the Board that’s truly multidisciplinary. They handle all types of cases from all types of disciplines without regard as to their own personal technical training aspects.”
In this segment, which is the interview finale, we discuss the heightened expectation of fairness placed on government attorneys, what it is like to work for USPTO Director David Kappos, how the USPTO determines when to give guidance to examiners to reconcile case law, specifically using the KSR Guidelines as an example. Before Knight and Chen had to go I also managed to ask a few of those familiar “get to know you” questions at the end. Wait until you hear Knight’s answer for favorite pastime or hobby. Talk about a Renaissance man! The interview does end rather abruptly, but that was because we literally kept talking through the last minute they were available and on to their next set of meetings.
On Wednesday August 1, 2012, I had the opportunity to do something I have wanted to do for quite a while. I sat down on the record with both Bernie Knight and Ray Chen, the top two attorneys who represent the United States government at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This starts the next phase of USPTO 2.0 interviews, which started earlier in the year. We talked about where these attorneys got their start, who they view the client as being, what it is like to represent the United States, ethical dilemmas that present, the structure of the General Counsel’s Office and the process for giving Federal Register guidance on a variety of matters.
While there is no doubt that the rejuvenation of the Patent Office during the Obama Administration is directly related to the capable and steady leadership of Director Kappos, I equally have no doubt that Pappas has played a major role in reshaping the public image of the USPTO. During the Bush Administration there was a feeling that the patent bar was the enemy, not to be trusted. The flow of information from the USPTO to the industry and public was largely non-existent. That has all changed and Pappas has been at the center of coordinating the USPTO with other government agencies and in coordinating the message so that the industry and public can know and understand what the USPTO is doing and why.
On February 3, 2012, I had the pleasure of interviewing Deborah Cohn, the Commissioner for Trademarks at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Part 1 of the interview was published yesterday. What follows is the remainder of the interview. We discussed a range of topics in this segment, including average pendency of trademark applications, cease and desist practice and some of the misleading letters sent to trademark owners and applicants from various third-parties that provide dubious publication services.
On February 3, 2012, I had the pleasure of interviewing Deborah Cohn, the Commissioner for Trademarks at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Cohn oversees all aspects of the USPTO’s Trademarks organization including policy, operations and budget relating to trademark examination, registration and maintenance. We spoke in her office on the 10th floor of the Madison Building for approximately 55 minutes.
In this final installment of my interview with Peggy Focarino, Commissioner for Patents, we discuss the examiner count system, production and Art Units and Patent Examiners that do not issue patents. What can the Office do about rogue Examiners and rogue Art Units? Does the Patent Office even understand this is a problem? Focarino was enormously candid, and it is clear to me that senior management at the USPTO know they have a problem and are working to create fixes.
In this installment we discuss a day in the life of the Commissioner for Patents, negotiating with the Examiner’s Union relative to the updated examiner count system and implementation of the America Invents Act. Stay tuned for part 3, the interview finale, which will publish on Friday, February 17, 2012. In part 3 we discuss the fact that certain examiners and certain Art Units seem to simply not issue patents. We also discuss the process for determining where the Patent Office will locate satellite Offices.
When I interviewed USPTO Director David Kappos in December I asked him about Focarino and the first words out of his mouth were: “What a wonderful leader.” While that is lofty praise, it is consistent with what I have heard many times over the years. Indeed, I have only heard positive things about Focarino, and everyone expresses that she is not only a very nice person but a knowledgeable and respected leader within the Office. She is also someone that I personally respect and like.
We begin by discussing first action allowances and whether they are frowned upon, then discuss the examination process and weave our way to Track 1 and whether you really must use Track 1 for patents likely to be litigated because you get a much more condensed, streamlined prosecution history. Over the past 10 days I have also interviewed Peggy Focarino (Commissioner for Patents), Deborah Cohn (Commissioner for Trademarks) and Peter Pappas (Chief of Staff). These interviews are being transcribed and prepared for publication. So stay tuned.
Part 2 of my interview with Deputy Under Secretary Rea picks up with discussion of the America Invents Act. We generally discussed the rulemaking process, the fact that the post-grant proposed rules are a bit late in coming, comments and what the USPTO will do with them, as well as the upcoming Road Show the USPTO is taking across America for the purpose of discussing implementation of the America Invents Act.
Deputy Director Teresa Rea has now been at the USPTO for approximately 1 year, but seems as invigorated and full of energy as she did when I first met up with her. She seems to love the job and relish the challenges that come with this moment in Patent Office history. We chatted for approximately 55 minutes, discussing USPTO hiring, the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences, the America Invents Act, what a typical day looks like on her calendar and much more.
In this installment we learn from Director Kappos that the USPTO budget is not a problem whatsoever. While the Office did not achieve a permanent end to fee diversion, Congress has appropriated $2.7 billion for the USPTO for this fiscal year. The USPTO is NOT operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) as is the case with most of the rest of the federal government. Furthermore, current projections have the USPTO collecting $2.5 billion in fees this fiscal year, so there will be a $200 million subsidizing of the USPTO by the General Treasury.
The beginning of Part 2 of my interview picks up where we left off, but more generally broadens out to generically ask how Kappos approaches the daunting task of getting over 6000 patent examiners on the same page to provide uniformity when by the very nature of the decisions they make they are dealing with one-of-a-kind innovations. There is always going to be subjectivity in prosecution, but the Kappos Administration seems to have gone back the philosophy of old, which is that patents should be granted on patentable inventions and it is the job of patent examiners, with the help of applicants and attorneys, to work together to find patent allowable matter in applications. But getting the message from the 10th floor of the Madison Building to trickle down to 6000+ patent examiners is something that cannot be taken for granted.