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Posts in Interviews & Conversations

The End of an Era – Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino Retires

Since she first joined the USPTO as the newest examiner in 1977, Focarino has worked tirelessly in a variety of different roles, always as a public servant. Not only has she worked in the public sector doing whatever job has been asked of her on behalf of the patent system, but she has also worked to be accepted as an employee of the USPTO, and not merely a female employee of the USPTO. Today it almost sounds sexist to even refer to someone as “a female employee,” but that wasn’t always the case. There is no doubt that Focarino has been a trailblazer. As the first woman to become Acting Commissioner for Patents, the first woman to become Commissioner for Patents, and a member of the first all female leadership team in the history of the USPTO, Focarino has seen the agency change dramatically over the past four decades.

Keeping track of who owns patents around the world

Who owns what and whether the rights are perfected simply cannot be a question if you want to have a market economy that recognizes patents as an asset class. For assets to be traded to the party who can best maximize value transaction costs must be kept low enough to facilitate a deal. Simply stated, if ownership information is spotty, incorrect or incomplete, there is no way to maximize the value of any single asset or patent portfolio.

The Changing Reality of Making Music in the Internet Age

Things have changed in a way because technology has allowed sampling of very specific parts of songs to take place sometimes without written prior acknowledgement or permission from the original artist. I think in music, going back many decades, people have always been lifting ideas from one another and interjecting those bits of ideas as musical “flavors” into songs. The lifted parts were brief and the influence might have been subtle, but noticeable. Guitar players have lifted licks or phrases off of the old Blues artists, and continue to this day. So this is really nothing new. But to extract specific parts of an existing song and make it the basis of a “new” song for me is a stretch and potentially signals a lack of deeper creativity and emotion. If however a musician does this and obtains permission to use from the original copyright holder, then I can respect that.

Patent Quality Summit Preview: A Conversation with Valencia Martin-Wallace

According to Martin-Wallace, the goal of the Patent Quality Summit is to establish a dialogue between the USPTO and stakeholders so that both sides can obtain a better understanding of where everyone is coming from when we talk about patent quality, and to set expectations going both directions. “Quality is two-fold – both internal and external,” Martin-Wallace explained. “We want to make sure we are delivering quality to stakeholders… patents that can stand up in the courts.”

Understanding the valuable role played by Patent Trolls

The U.S. economy is full of intermediaries everywhere you look. But for some reason we have demonized the intermediaries in the market for innovation. Think of it this way. Most people buy their groceries at a grocery story. That grocery store does not grow any of the vegetables, raise the meat, nor catch the fish. It is simply an intermediary. Now I can see why from the point of view of a manufacturer the PAE may be a nuisance. But from the inventor’s point of view the PAE is a valuable intermediary.

Inventors are NOT patent trolls and they are NOT the problem

Large companies can steal your patented technology, make a great deal of money, ignore you all together, and then have the resources, the vast resources in most cases, to delay your enforcement actions or actually destroy your patents by any means necessary. So the only recourse left for me and others like me is to bring suite to protect my invention – my intellectual property rights. However, the loser pay clause in HR 9 would be a showstopper for me. Bringing a suit against a patent infringer would be too much of a risk for me and my family now and I’ve already used my life savings and family inheritance and hard work for over 15 years plus the untold impact on my family just to develop and maintain my patents. I just do not believe the independent inventor is the problem.

The European technical standard as a guide for drafting software patents

”A few years ago we ramped up our foreign filings and recognized that we’re writing this one document, this one patent application for so many different audiences. We started settling in on the European technical standard as a guide for how to draft, how to cover the innovation from that vantage point, in order to try to write this document that would satisfy the USPTO as well as the EPO, Chinese Patent Office, the Japanese Patent Office, and so on. So for me, what this environment means as a practitioner has more to do with how the patent is drafted and how we capture the innovation, and not really a huge difference about what the underlying innovation is or how it’s implemented.”

Congress Seeks to Fix Unfair, Outdated Royalties for Songwriters and Composers

According to Congressman Collins, who I spoke with via telephone on Friday, March 6, 2015, there was a great deal of treatment of the SEA at the subcommittee level during the 113th Congress, but now during the 114th Congress consideration will move to the full Committee level, which suggests a seriousness about getting something done. ”Music licensing will be an area where something bubbles up this Congress,” Collins explained. ”I’m hoping the industry will come together.”

Litigation abuse driving negative sentiment around patents

”[L]itigation abuse is driving so many of the issues and so much of the negative sentiment around patents generally. Certainly it’s important to ensure that quality patents are issued, with quality examinations, and quality patents are filed from a disclosure standpoint. The problem is largely addressed with the patent owners and how they’re asserting and using and abusing their rights versus how those rights may or may not come out of the Patent Office.”

America Must be the Leader in Patenting Innovations, Including Software

I do feel that the whole notion of trying to find an “inventive concept” is really challenged. While the Supreme Court went out of its way to say we are really not putting Sections 102 or 103 in here, I think what’s happening is the Courts are basically trying to do that. And they’re looking deeply into prior art in some cases to knock out patents under Section 101 and whittle away the invention, and trying to find the abstract idea by doing a prior art analysis, and I think that’s troubling.

Writing software is easy, but writing good software is very difficult

On January 20, 2015, I interviewed Fatih Ozluturk, a prolific inventor who has close to 200 patents to his credit and a similar number of patent applications still pending. His inventions have been licensed by every major cellular OEM, and have created over $1 billion in licensing revenue. Today Ozluturk continues as an inventor himself, but he is also now an…

Conservatives Should Have No Part of Patent Reform

”We have corporate interests masquerading the drastic overhaul of the patent system as mere tort reform… It makes no sense to undermine long-standing property rights to address a supposed litigation explosion that doesn’t exist with a supposed tort solution that doesn’t apply.”

Provisional patents are like chicken soup, good for everybody

”Even a startup with strained resources can afford to file provisional applications. As a result of the American Invents Act and the fact that the United States is now a first inventor to file country, it is advisable for any company to file provisional applications as soon as they have a meaningful invention and have the ability to put it down in an application and file it. So, that would be the most important advice I can give.”

Congress expected to take up federal trade secret legislation in 2015

There was a lot of action on this in the last Congress. There is a group of law professors that have expressed some opposition to the proposal to add a civil remedy, in spite of widespread support among industry stakeholders. There was some controversy around some seizure provisions that were suggested in one version of the legislation. And I think those discussions will usefully inform what will be done in this Congress. But I believe there is a great deal of support for making that basic change to allow companies to have another—not a displacement, not preemptive of state law but an additional place to go to get the benefit of nationwide service of process and other special advantages of being in federal court.

Michelle Lee on patent quality, IPR and trade agreements

During our interview Lee explains that she is supportive of expanding trade agreements currently under consideration in Congress, that she looks forward to working on patent quality and receiving feedback from stakeholders on how the Office can better address patent quality, and she explained that the Office was pleased with the recent Federal Circuit ruling in In re Cuozzo Speed Technologies, which is the first appeal of a final decision of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) in an Inter Partes Review (IPR) proceeding.