Intellectual Property Watch
Efforts to revamp the US patent system have split the biotechnology and high-tech industry sectors, with the former strongly opposed to many of the changes sought by the latter. Reaction to the stalemate was predictable but muted, with most groups saying they will continue to work toward comprehensive reform.
The Biotechnology Industry Organisation said Specter was “right to reject” revisions which jeopardise many economic sectors that rely on strong patent protection.
“Serious issues remain to be resolved,” but “solving damages is the real key to whether this bill moves,” said a spokesman for the Innovation Alliance, whose members are technology companies and patent holders in various sectors.
There are other major problems as well, said Hayden Gregory, IP law consultant in the American Bar Association’s governmental affairs office. Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican-Utah, “is very insistent upon reform of inequitable conduct [improprieties in applying for a patent], and Leahy is very resistant to that,” he told Intellectual Property Watch.
The US Patent and Trademark Office is pushing hard for “Applicant Quality Submissions,” which is “code-speak for a requirement that applicants do a patent search for every application and explain the significant results as part of the application,” Gregory said. Inventors and IP lawyers strongly reject the proposal, not least because “users of the patent systems are paying $2 billion a year so that the USPTO can provide such services,” he said. Offloading the cost to patent-seekers will hike each application fee by $10,000 to $15,000 according to the Congressional Budget, he said.
“Too Early” to Predict Outcome
S 1145 “certainly is not dead” but whether there will be a patent reform law this year is “too close to call,” said Foley & Lardner patent attorney Harold Wegner.
The continuing controversy could keep the bill off the Senate floor for the next few weeks, said the Innovation Alliance spokesman. That will “hopefully allow for a serious negotiation among all stakeholders,” he said.
Separately, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) earlier this month urged a federal court to uphold the denial of a patent for an abstract idea. The applicant sought to patent the concept that the “weather risk” involved in buying and selling commodities could be reduced if sellers had conversations with two buyers instead of one, the ACLU said. Patenting speech or thought risks violating the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech, the organisation said.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008