Senator Tillis Urges USPTO to Adopt Administrative Changes

By IPWatchdog
August 13, 2020

“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.’”

Thom Tillis

Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chairman, Subcommittee on Intellectual Property

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.”


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Discuss this

There are currently 9 Comments comments.

  1. anonymous August 13, 2020 12:44 pm

    Still waiting on that 101 reform, Senator Tillis. Blaming “stakeholders” for your failure to act fools no one. Congress remains puppets of Big Tech, and it is time for you to do what is right.

    It is laughable when Tim Cook can testify under oath to Congress that “We would never steal somebody’s IP”, having paid hundreds of millions of dollars for patent infringement. Willful patent infringement.

    Please stop with the platitudes and do the right thing for small businesses and individual inventors.

  2. Anono August 13, 2020 1:56 pm

    These are rather timid proposals of little substance or significance one way or the other.

  3. Pro Say August 13, 2020 2:12 pm

    Respectfully Senator Tillis, the changes you advocate; while worth serious consideration by the PTO for the reasons you supply; ignore what most needs to happen for the good of our Country.

    Specifically, you state: ” … 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.”

    What America needs most — especially in today’s age of the U.S. industry-crippling Corona virus pandemic — IS NOT a “consensus of reforms,” but instead the restoration of patent eligibility to ALL areas of innovation.


    Just look at what the Federal Circuit has done and continues to do — expand the very narrow Alice / Mayo eligibility restrictions FAR BEYOND what the Supreme Court instructed.


    Rearranging the deck chairs WILL NOT save our innovation ship from sinking.

    Ignore the self-serving, Un-American pleadings and dollars of white-male-privilege Big Tech by stepping up, writing, and submitting to Congress the bill America REALLY needs to restore world innovation leadership.

  4. Anon August 13, 2020 4:21 pm

    I find it interesting that ANY of these suggestions are being offered as advice to the USPTO as opposed to taking the bull by the horns and passing these items through as law.

    One has to wonder if TIllis has that little faith in the ability of Congress to pass ANY patent law changes.

  5. M. D. Hoyle August 13, 2020 8:44 pm

    Anytime “any” Senator is willing to push new patent law based on “anything” that acknowldges Mark Lemley or Colleen Chien, then i immediately say NO THANK YOU!! Cause you know someway or somehow they are being paid by someone to the detriment of inventors.

  6. Small Inventor August 14, 2020 10:19 am

    We all know big tech engages in “efficient infringement”. This works for them because they know small inventors/companies can not afford to bring cases against these enormous companies. For this reason, they cannot raise capital to carry their patents through to marketable products. In addition these large companies engage in denouncing NPE’s (calling them “Patent Trolls”) when the NPE objective is to bring cases against the large companies and thereby provide support and an opportunity for small inventors to carry their inventions through to success and provide a much needed boost to the US innovation economy. We need to legislation to make it much easier and less expensive to provide injunctive relief to the small inventor.

  7. American Cowboy August 14, 2020 11:20 am

    The changes that are most needed are those that help the inventors, not the efficient infringers. But unfortunately the two changes Tillis recommends help the infringers and burden the inventors.

    What a colossal disappointment, Senator!

  8. Anon August 14, 2020 11:57 am


    Good points — and maybe WHY the Senator took this avenue instead of opening this up to the legislative process (and getting pushback that the particular ‘stakeholders’ that benefit are NOT those that actually want a strong patent system).

  9. David Lewis August 16, 2020 6:13 pm

    To state the obvious, it is hard to see the connection between the two proposals and lowering “transactional costs” to the average inventor. The proposal in fact seem like they would create more friction over silly things like, what tense the specification is written in. While who is the “real” owner of the patent may be an important question, the proposal seems like he is asking the US PTO to start nitpicking over things like in document A the “i” was dotted, where as in document B it was not, creating more silly transactions with the US Patent and Trademark Office over things are don’t really matter to the US PTOs core mission – patentability.

    To echo some of the above comments, I would of hoped for more from Senator Coon’s hearings.