“Tillis explained that the ‘proposals would promote policy goals that you and I share: enhancing our patent system so that it provides optimal incentives for innovators and inventors while also minimizing transactional costs that may discourage the development of new products.’”
On August 10, Senator Tillis, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, sent a letter to United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Andrei Iancu encouraging the Office to implement two administrative changes that would help to improve the effectiveness of the U.S. patent system. Noting that the Subcommittee has held a series of hearings on patent eligibility reform “with an eye toward improving the efficiency and effectiveness of U.S. patent law and its administration”, Tillis explained that he remains interested in finding ways to improve the patent system despite the inability of stakeholders to reach a consensus on legislative reforms as a result of the hearings. Tillis referred to a paper on patent reform by Stanford University professors Lisa Larrimore Ouellette and Heidi Williams that outlined three specific reforms to the U.S. patent system.
More Clarity and Certainty
In the letter, Tillis selected two of Ouellette and Williams’ proposals and urged the USPTO adopt them. The first proposal related to a requirement for patent applicants to more clearly label experimental data to distinguish hypothetical experimental data from data resulting from real experiments. Noting that the current patent rules require hypothetical data to be represented in past or future tense, Tillis explained that tense is not always clear, and the current rule would not always be apparent to those reading the patents. He also noted that such confusing data has the potential to “mislead investors and pump up profits for a company that has little to offer the economy or the public.”
The second proposal involved the clarification of patent ownership information. In particular, the proposal outlined how the “USPTO could improve ownership transparency and searchability by increasing incentives for recording changes in patent assignments, by promoting disclosure of hidden owners, and by standardizing company and inventor names across patent records.” Tillis noted that such clarifications could address uncertainties experienced by researchers who spend a great deal of time trying to figure out all the different name variations that may be used by a single company.
Toward a Better Patent System
Tillis explained that the “proposals would promote policy goals that you and I share: enhancing our patent system so that it provides optimal incentives for innovators and inventors while also minimizing transactional costs that may discourage the development of new products.”
Further, Tillis noted that the proposals could be implemented under the USPTO’s current regulatory authority and would not impose any costs on taxpayers, while also lowering transactional costs for inventors. In conclusion, Tillis emphasized the importance of patents in the United States and noted that “[w]ithout a well-functioning patent system, many innovators and inventors would not have the incentives to invest heavily in life-changing technologies and life-saving drugs.”