The New Year is here and already in full swing for the most part, although it is now time to go back to work. Having Christmas and New Year’s Day on a Wednesday really caused the business world to go into a prolonged shutdown it seemed, with some people take time off early in the week, some later in the week, some the whole week. So now we are all back and ready to go!
To switch things up a bit, several years ago I contacted a number of my industry contacts and asked them what they wished for in the year ahead. See, for example, Industry Insiders Make Patent Wishes for 2012 and Industry Insiders Make Patent and Innovation Wishes for 2013. This has become rather popular and persisted. This year we have a host of industry experts who participated.
In addition to those wishes that follow, please also take a look at the contributions made by Bob Stoll (What Happens to IP Law in 2014?) and Peter Pappas (Reflections on 2013 and Some Thoughts on the Year Ahead), both of whom took a slightly different approach but produced longer pieces definitely worth reading.
So what is your wish for 2014?
Without further ado, here are the wishes of some elite members of the patent and innovation community for 2013.
Commissioner for Patents
United States Patent and Trademark Office
My first wish for 2014 is that the USPTO continue to excel in its mission and remain highly engaged with our customers and stakeholders. In Patents, that means continuing to reduce the backlog of unexamined patent applications and request for continued examination (RCE) applications, as well as first action and total pendency. We must also continue to listen to the needs of our customers and stakeholders so that programs we implement, rules we formulate, and policies we institute will represent a fair and balanced approach to the IP community.
My second wish is that we continue to move beyond the budgetary challenges of 2013 and are able to resume our plans to modernize our IT systems, fully implement the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system, and move forward with permanent space for our satellite offices in Dallas, Denver, and Silicon Valley.
The USPTO is the #1 Best Place to Work in the Federal Government, and I am highly confident that our workforce will help make my wishes come true!
Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs
United States Patent and Trademark Office
In 2014, I hope that we can make progress — through a constructive, inclusive, and transparent dialogue — toward finding solutions to the issues posed for copyright law and policy in today’s digital environment.
And in the patent area, I hope we continue to move toward greater alignment in the international patent system. We can achieve this through increased participation in projects like the Patent Prosecution Highway, modernizing the Patent Cooperation Treaty process, and fostering continued dialogue on the adoption of important global norms, such as a harmonized, 12-month grace period.
My patent wishes for 2014 include:
1. Full funding for the US Patent and Trademark Office with no sequestration, no diversion and no withholding of private user fees that applicants pay to the agency for use by the agency.
2. Continued focus by US Patent and Trademark Office leaders on continuing to meet or exceed the agency’s current high standard of published patent data while improving its internal operations and information technology systems.
3. A final Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that reflects the importance to the US economy of strong intellectual property protection in the US and abroad.
4. Congressional passage of Trade Promotion Authority Reauthorization legislation that provides the President with fast track negotiating authority for future free trade agreements that will, hopefully, enhance global intellectual property protection standards.
Last year I wished for greater understanding of the patent system outside of the patent community. Awareness of the patent system has certainly grown, but understanding? I’m not so sure. I still see a rush by many to hasty “solutions” that would actually result in more harm than good.
My latest concern is proposals for technology-specific reforms. These proposals comprise calls for restricting the scope of, enhancing challenges for, or eliminating altogether, patents relating to certain technologies such as computer and genetic implemented inventions. Such proposals are overreactions to highly publicized litigation or are misdirected and simplistic attempts to address far more complex problems. The U.S. patent system continues to be the greatest engine for innovation and job growth the world has ever known and the targeted technologies are among the very most innovative. Computer software, for example, is increasingly the way innovation is developed, manufactured and implemented across all industries. As a result, any patent reforms need to be patiently developed, carefully designed, and skillfully balanced to minimize harmful side effects and unintended consequences.
Perhaps worse, technology-specific reforms risk subjecting our patent system to the same special interests that distort our tax code. The patent system is intended to promote all innovation, not favor one type of innovation over another. All inventions meeting the requirements for patentability may be patented and those patents enforced. If there is a need to improve patent quality, let’s do so for all patents. To do otherwise would diminish U.S. competitiveness and invite our trading partners to take reciprocal action. U.S. companies already struggle with intellectual property protection in many emerging market countries and technology-specific reforms will exacerbate these problems. This year, I wish that patent reforms be technology-neutral.
I wish Congress would not act hastily to make radical changes to the patent system, but rather wait for objective and detailed analysis of a problem that is not unique to the patent law – that is, litigation extortion. We need to carefully craft solutions to this problem, without changing the patent system in a manner so as to make it financially prohibitive for small entity companies, emerging companies, universities and research institutes to maintain and enforce their patent rights. I hope Congress will finally listen to both sides in the debate, and rest its decisions on truly objective data. In this regard, I hope to see reform in legal academia to require disclosure by authors of legal papers of the source of any financial support they obtained in conducting their studies, as well as in developing any non-public databases they employ in such studies.
2014 is likely to be a critically important year with respect to U.S. patent law. With nearly a dozen “patent reform” bills in the House and Senate and one—the Innovation Act, sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte R-VA—already passed in the House, there will be lot of pressure get something to the President’s desk during the first few months of 2014.
I’d like to think that there’s still an opportunity to restore some balance to a legislative dialog that has too often painted patents as a drag on innovation, while in fact they are more often than not the opposite. Yes, a small fraction of patent holders have engaged in abusive behavior, and that does need to be addressed. But in doing so, we need to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In particular, changes to patent law that would chill the ability of individual inventors and small startup companies to protect their inventions would weaken a framework that has played a central role in fostering American innovation.
American Intellectual Property Law Association
Former Director of the USPTO and Under Secretary of Commerce
I hope the good news for 2014 is that those who are ultimately responsible for how our patent laws and regulations are written and interpreted gain even greater insight into how well that system has worked, especially over the last quarter century; that the parochial rhetoric which sometimes threatens to overwhelm a rational debate about that system is often just that, rhetoric; and that a responsible stewardship means occasionally resisting the noisiest among us for the sake of preserving what’s most important about that system – the fact that for 225 years no better system has come along to incent creativity and entrepreneurship in what is still the most innovative nation on earth.
For 2014, I wish for more widespread understanding that innovation is not only crucial to our economy, it is what truly distinguishes humans from all other species. Our systems of intellectual property rights serve as the containers helping to carry the fuel that feeds this innovative spirit by encouraging investment of the time and money needed to commercialize our innovations. I hope both Congress and the Supreme Court keep this in mind when deciding whether and how to undertake the necessary innovations in our systems of IP rights.