Earlier today the United States Patent and Trademark Office announced more details relating to the “Three-Track” program, which was first published for public comment in June 2010. See USPTO Announces New Examination Rules). The Three-Track initiative is designed to enable applicants to choose the speed with which their patent application is processed. On Friday, February 4, 2011, the USPTO will publish in the Federal Register a notice of proposed rulemaking on “Track One” of the program, which will give applicants the opportunity for prioritized examination of a patent within 12 months of its filing date for a proposed fee of $4,000.
Sadly, because the Patent Office does not have fee setting authority there will be no reduction in fees available to small entities who otherwise normally pay 50% of most Patent Office fees. Because the Congress controls which fees qualify for small entity preference everyone will need to pay $4,000 to accelerate under Track One. Perhaps this will get Congress to stand up and take notice of the patent system they have so long neglected. I can only imagine the outcry from independent inventors and the small business community. If you are offended by the high fee just be sure to direct your ire where it is deserved; namely in the direction of Congress.
What appears below is the speech Henry Nothhaft (Tessera President & CEO) gave at the Innovation Alliance conference on January 21, 2010, which is published with his permission. Readers may also find interesting Nothhaft’s recent article Looking for Jobs in All the Wrong Places: Memo to the President, relating to President Obama’s State of the Union Address and published by Harvard Business Review.
Hank Nothhaft addresses the Innovation Alliance Conference, 1-21-2011.
All told, I’ve helped create more than 6000 jobs and return 8 billion dollars to investors. And this work experience has given me first hand insight into a subject that economists are only now beginning to study closely. Namely the surprisingly powerful role that start ups play in job creation and economic growth. Of course, economists have been studying the sources of economic growth for a long time. 50 years ago, Robert Solo discovered to every one’s great shock that virtually all economic growth, or at least 80% of it comes from technological innovation. Not capital inputs or productivity increases or anything else, just technological innovation, the kind of break-through innovation that crates whole new industries and millions of jobs. Like the development of semiconductors, personal computers, software, and the Internet.
Kappos at the Innovation Alliance conference, 1-21-2011.
Yesterday David Kappos, the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, went to Capitol Hill to testify before the House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet, which is a part of the House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary.
The title of Kappos’ prepared remarks was How an Improved U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Can Create Jobs. For those who are marinated in the goings on at the Patent Office a lot is review with a few tidbits of new information. Specifically, we learned that the USPTO projects an average first action pendency of 23 months by the end of fiscal 2011, that participating in the First Action Interview Pilot Program more than doubles the likelihood of getting a first action allowance, that Track 1 rules are imminent with rules for Tracks 2 and 3 to follow and during FY 2010 nearly 6,000 USPTO employees worked from home at least a portion of their work week. We also heard an ominous and declarative statement from Kappos, who told the House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property that the diversion of fees will cause the patent backlog to rise.
It has been an interesting year for us at IPWatchdog.com, from getting sued in January 2010, to exclusive interviews with the likes of Chief Judge Randall Rader, Chief Judge Paul Michel, Former U.S. Senator Birch Bayh, USPTO Director David Kappos and former USPTO Directors Todd Dickinson and Nick Godici and others, we have stayed busy. We have put more emphasis this year on reporting live from industry news events, such as from the BIO 2010 International Convention and the AIPLA Annual Meeting. Of course, the familiar opinion commentary that I so love to write has also been a mainstay.
The big news for us is just coming in as of today. I am pleased to announce that IPWatchdog.com was selected by the readers of the ABA Journal as their favorite IP Law blog for 2010. See ABA Journal Blawg 100 IP Law category for 2010. I am also pleased to announce that for 2010 we had over 2,000,000 visits, delivered nearly 11.8 million pages, our homepage was viewed 3.06 million times and we averaged over 67,000 unique monthly visitors! Thanks to all our readers for coming back day after day, and thanks to all of our Guest Contributors!
In a conference call this afternoon with reporters Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced that the first Regional Patent Office would be located in Detroit, Michigan and will open at some point during 2011, employing some 100 patent examiners with some additional support staff. Locke explained that as a part of the nationwide workforce initiative of the Obama Administration high paying jobs would be coming to the USPTO Detroit Satellite Office. Locke said that while 100 patent examiners is an appropriate level of staffing initially that number could expand over time if the Regional Patent Office model proves successful. Secretary Locke also explained that the Detroit Satellite Patent Office will be “the first of several Patent Offices we hope to establish around the country.” When pressed during the question and answer phase of the call, Secretary Locke said that perhaps two additional Satellite Patent Offices might open “within the year after Detroit.”
Yesterday the Intellectual Property Owners Association held their 21st annual PTO Day at the The Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center in Washington, DC. The luncheon speaker was David Kappos, who is Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Those familiar with Director Kappos know that he generally has prepared remarks, which he delivers, or an outline and then speaks contemporaneously but directed from his outline. Yesterday Director Kappos deviated a bit from his routine and utilized a powerpoint presentation, which was titled: “The USPTO by the Numbers: Progress and Reform at Our Nation’s Innovation Agency.” While some of the slides tell what appears to be a remarkable turn around story, the real news to come out of Director Kappos’ presentation is that he is challenging the Patent Office to get down to a patent application backlog of 650,000 by the end of fiscal year 2011. To paraphrase Sam Cooke: what a wonderful world it would be!
Leading off at 8:45am, from left to right: Herbert Wamsley (IPO Executive Director), Peggy Focarino (Deputy Commissioner for Patents), William Smith (Woodcock Washburn), John Owens (USPTO CIO) and Bob Stoll (Commissioner for Patents).
Earlier today some of the top manages from the patent side of the building at the United States Patent and Trademark Office were on stage at the IPO Education Foundation PTO Day to discuss the current state of affairs at the USPTO and what to look forward to next year. The morning started off with Bob Stoll (Commissioner for Patents), Peggy Focarino (Deputy Commissioner for Patents) and John Owens (Chief Information Officer), sharing the stage to provide a year in review, as well as updates on patent operations and the IT infrastructure. The early morning patent session, which I attended, was moderated by Bill Smith, currently Of Counsel with Woodcock Washburn and himself a former member of the BPAI. Later in the day the head man himself arrived. The luncheon speaker was David Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce for IP and Director of the USPTO.
All of these management officials seems quite open, very straight forward and created news. For example, at lunch Director Kappos explained that the goal for fiscal year 2010, which ended on September 30, 2010, was to get the backlog down to 699,000 — dubbed “project 699.” The Office was not successful, but Kappos says they will get well below 700,000 for fiscal year 2011, perhaps as low as a backlog of 650,000. Kappos’ immediate follow-up: “I say that as Commissioner Stoll starts to choke at me saying that.” Indeed, there are ambitious goals at the USPTO for FY 2011, including a move to unity of invention.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office will soon unveil a pilot program that is aimed at trying to provide inventors with some additional options with respect to moving from a filed provisional patent application to a nonprovisional patent application. USPTO Director David Kappos wrote about this in the November edition of Inventors Eye, see Providing Inventors More Time and Options. In some circles this pilot program has at times been characterized as providing for an extension of a provisional patent application to allow it to remain pending for twenty-four (24) months. That is not technically an accurate way to articulate what the new pilot program will do, and for those who might want to avail themselves of the soon to be announced pilot program it is worth getting a handle on some of the finer details of the proposal. The effect could look like an extension of a provisional patent application, but there are special steps that must be followed.
The Kappos Administration at the Patent Office has been criticized in some circles for even pursuing this path because it is too complicated, but such criticism smacks of a healthy dose of condescension if you ask me. It seems far too paternalistic to believe that inventors and small businesses are not savvy enough to figure out what they want and what they need. After all, the idea of attempting to extend the effective life of a provisional patent application was proposed to Director Kappos by an inventor. Life is complicated. Life comes with choices. Some people are lazy and don’t care to inform themselves. We ought not dumb down life and/or the law to the lowest common denominator. Rather, what needs to be done is to articulate the choices with clarity and precision such that those who are diligently engaged can determine if they might find one or another path more useful. This is about making educated choices and giving more flexibility, how is that bad?