Robert Reich at the Progressive Governance Conference 2009
Today in the Wall Street JournalRobert Reich, a Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, painted a bleak picture of the future of the US economy over the next decade. Reich explains that the latest job numbers are a positive sign relatively speaking, but that “the bleeding hasn’t stopped.” While the economy added some 162,000 jobs in March, 40,000 were temporary jobs thanks to the ongoing census. That means 112,000 “real new jobs,” as Reich calls them, were created, which is below the 150,000 needed on a monthly basis just to keep up with US population growth. Reich blames outsourcing in large part, and says that even with robust job growth of 300,000 jobs per month it would take between 5 to 8 years to return to pre-recession levels of employment.
As a former Labor Secretary Reich knows a thing or two about the economy and employment in particular. I don’t frequently agree with him on policy, but it is hard not to notice the man’s intelligence and grasp of issues, even if you oppose him philosophically or ideologically. The reality he paints is altogether true, unfortunate and extremely unnecessary. He concludes that “those who have lost their jobs to foreign outsourcing or labor-replacing technologies are unlikely ever to get them back. And they have little hope of finding new jobs that pay as well.” This may be true, but I know that it doesn’t have to be that way. The outsourcing of jobs is largely in violation of US export laws and that seems to me to demonstrate the reckless disregard for the American worker rampant in Washington, DC. The US government is not doing anything to enforce US export laws on the books and stop outsourcing that is in violation of US law. Sadly, this is not a Democrat problem or an Obama Administration problem, rather it is a government problem. The same US export laws were ignored under President Bush and when Republicans controlled Congress.
By now most are likely aware that patent reform is back, once again, with the current draft legislation available for everyone to read. It is becoming harder and harder to take patent reform seriously, given that it has started to become a little like a bad horror movie where the villain is killed only to reappear in the next episode, a la Jason from the Friday the 13th movie franchise. Over the last 5 years or so we have been told that patent reform is a done deal, only to have it called off and proclaimed dead due to lack of compromise. Is this time different? At the risk of sounding extremely naive, I think this time is different and it is going to happen. It looks like most of the contentious issues have been ironed out enough to have generated a bill that can be passed and become law. However, the continued focus on health care reform by the Obama Administration promises to cripple Congress for at least a few more weeks, likely longer. By the time Congress is operational again, will there be enough interest to do something, even anything?
EDITOR’S NOTE: President Obama’s recently submitted budget would allow the USPTO to hire 1,000 patent examiners during both FY 2011 and FY 2012. It would also provide an interim fee increase on certain patent fees which is estimated to generate $224 million. There is no mention of fee diversion, but reading between the lines it seems the budget would allow the USPTO to keep all, or at least more, of the fees collected. More to come, but below is a press release issued by the USPTO on February 1, 2010. It is worth a read.
########## PRESS RELEASE STARTS HERE ##########
Washington – February 1, 2010 – Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos today announced President Obama’s $2.322 billion fiscal year 2011 (FY 2011) budget request for the USPTO.
The president’s budget request for FY 2011 will support a five-year plan designed to enable the USPTO to achieve the strategic objectives laid out by Under Secretary Kappos and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke – a significant reduction in patent pendency periods and the existing patent inventory backlog; improvement in patent quality; enhanced intellectual property (IP) protection and enforcement; global IP policy leadership; and investment in information technology (IT) infrastructure and tools to achieve a 21st Century system that permits end-to-end electronic processing in patents and trademark IT systems.
If you are unaware that Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown was victorious last night via special election to fill the remaining term of the Senate seat held by the late Senator Ted Kennedy you must be living under a rock. Over the last month or so Brown has surged in the polls and took Massachusetts and the nation by storm, claiming a Senate seat long believed to be practically owned by Democrats. In a matter of days, perhaps weeks, the Democrats will no longer hold a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, which likely all but assures a death to health care legislation and a dramatic slow down in the Obama agenda. Already Senators and Representatives on the Democrat side of the aisle are talking about perhaps slowing down on health care, perhaps even starting over, and in the meantime focusing on jobs, which is after all what the overwhelming majority of Americans want Congress and the President to do. As a policy wonk and political observer I would love to get into a discussion about what this election means, and I have over at BlatantlyTrue.com, where I wrote MA Republican Scott Brown and his Truck Head to DC, but for the pages of IPWatchdog.com, general political discussion is a bit too much off topic. But one story that certainly is not off topic is patent reform, so allow me to ponder what this political tectonic shift may mean for the future of patent reform, which if done right could and should lead to job growth and economic prosperity.
Earlier today President Barack Obama, perhaps with the best of intentions, demonstrated that he is not all that familiar with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and how they handle patent applications. The short of it is that what President Obama said to tech executives was wrong on the facts, but at least partly correct in spirit. Essentially, President Obama said that the way the Patent Office handles electronically filed patent applications is to print them and scan them. Sadly, that is not true, or is at least extremely misleading. It is certainly true that the Patent Office used to do things that way, but since the new EFS Web system was unveiled on March 16, 2006, electronically filed patent applications are not printed and then scanned. Perhaps the President or his speech writers are readers of IPWatchdog.com and got the wrong impression when I lamented a few months ago that genius federal minds thought printing and scanning created a paperless system, or perhaps the White House has been spying on the PLI Patent Bar Review Course and listening to John White tell stories of the old days when printing and scanning of electronic filings was the rule. Whatever the case, the President was incorrect on the facts, but certainly correct to say that it is embarrassing that the Patent Office computer systems are woefully inadequate and behind the times.
Christmas is coming early for inventors, innovative companies, patent attorneys and anyone in the technology/innovation industry that relies upon patent protection. Faced with a growing backlog and long patent pendency periods in a difficult fiscal environment, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is reaching out to former patent examiners, inviting them to return to the agency. According to David Kappos, the Director of the USPTO and Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property: “Because of their prior experience, returning examiners will need little training and will be able to hit the ground running. These examiners can have an immediate impact on the patent examination backlog and reducing the backlog is our top priority.” In the past I have written over and over again that the USPTO should bring back former patent examiners, precisely for the reasons stated by Kappos (e.g., 5th paragraph and 5th paragraph). I am not about to claim that the USPTO listened to me, but whether they listened to me or came up with this idea on their own it is something I have thought made a lot of sense for a long time. So, not surprisingly, I think this is a wonderful idea!
This year as we wind down and look back we not only need to look back at the previous year, but the first decade of the new century and new millennium will be ending. So at this reflective time of year it seems appropriate to take a look back at the biggest patent related news stories of the decade. As with any Top 10 list, or any ranking, there will undoubtedly be disagreements, arguments and some things that people believe should have been on the list. What follows is Part 1 of my personal Top 10 patent news related stories for the decade. Once I get all 10 out, by later in the week, I will provide a survey that allows you to rank them, and I hope you will. We can then take a look back at my Top 10 vs. the Top 10 of IPWatchdog.com readers next year. Please also feel free (and I am sure you will) to point out things that I missed or clearly got wrong, at least in your opinion.
Without further ado, in descending order, here is Part 1 of my Top 10 Patent Related Stories of the Decade:
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