New PTO Director and Returning Patent Property Rights

As everyone not pinned under a rock or away on an exotic vacation knows by now, SCOTUS has agreed to decide whether PTAB has the constitutional authority to nullify patent rights in a mini-trial process (principally AIA’s IPR). The precise question before the Oil States Court is:

“Whether inter partes review – an adversarial process used by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to analyze the validity of existing patents violates the Constitution by extinguishing private property rights through a non-Article III forum without a jury.”

Having rejected cert in earlier appeals raising the same issue (including MCM v HP ) experienced observers are speculating and theorizing about the SCOTUS reasons for agreeing over the objections of the Solicitor General to hear it. In a timely letter to Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross, the Licensing Executive Society ( LES) which is ably led by Brian P. O’ Shuaghnnesy advised the Secretary regarding its recommended qualifications appointment of a new PTO Director.The letter enumerated some of the many problems affecting our US patent system including a strong argument for patents as “property.” A few excerpts from the letter are below. We recommend reading it in its entirety.

LES Letter Excerpts:
“Above all, LES recommends appointing a Director dedicated to protecting intellectual property, generally, and patents in particular, as the private property right our nation’s founders envisioned.The founders saw great value in rewarding individuals who toil to bring forth from commonly accessible resources useful products and processes by granting to those individuals an enforceable property right. They recognized that such a property right would, in the fullness of time, work a substantial benefit to the public by encouraging innovation and disclosure.We must honor that philosophy.It contributed substantially to America’s rapid ascendancy from agrarian economy to industrial powerhouse and can be traced to America’s first patent act of 1792.In affording that private property right, we reward and empower the archetypal American innovator, the individual daring to risk all to bring forth the next big thing, and thereby challenge market incumbents who benefit from stasis and the status quo.”

“Commercial development of innovation, and new business formation, demands the prompt and predictable grant of durable property rights, and a reasonable expectation of the enjoyment of quiet title upon issuance. Financing of new enterprises, and the growth of existing ones demands intellectual assets that stand up to challenge, regardless how hose assets are derived or commercialized. American innovators deserve strong, predictable, enforceable intellectual property rights, and that starts at the USPTO. Regrettably, recent changes, both legislative and precedential, have chipped away at US patent rights. Meanwhile, patents issued by other countries are increasingly perceived to be more predictable and enforceable, and thus to have greater value. Investment, and ultimately innovation, will migrate to those environments.”

The LES letter which makes sound arguments for a qualified new Director with IP and management experience has been featured in a recent IPWatchdog post.

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