Today, the White House released a FACT SHEET on executive action to strengthen the patent system and foster innovation. A number of new initiatives are listed in the fact sheet by the administration:
- Promoting transparency with the proposed convoluted rule to identify the attributable owner of a patent or application. It is questionable whether the PTO has the authority to make such a rule, as the courts have held that the PTO does not have substantive rule-making authority.
- The PTO has begun further training of patent examiners to help them better understand and examine applications that include functional claims, i.e., parts that are defined a function they perform instead of their structure. The PTO also plans to launch a program to include glossaries in patent specifications to promote clarity.
- The PTO is launching an online toolkit to provide the public with information on patent litigation suits that are pending, as well as on specific patents. This is intended to aid the public in understanding the risks and benefits of litigation.
- The PTO plans to expand the use of academic scholars to produce studies and collect data on patent issues, as well as to continue to expand the use of round table discussions with various members of the patent community.
- The White House proposes to strengthen enforcement of ITC exclusion orders.
- The White House proposes to continue to strengthen the Patents for Humanity program.
- The PTO is announcing a new initiative to use crowd sourcing for prior art to aid examiners. Presumably, this would be similar to the peer-to-patent system.
- The PTO is requesting that technologists, engineers, and experts volunteer their time to aid in training patent examiners to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies.
- The PTO plans to increase its pro bono and pro se programs.
Finally, the administration is renewing the call to pass meaningful legislation to combat the problem of patent trolls.
On one hand, it is good to see that the White House recognizes that innovation and the patent system are vital to our economy and recognizes the importance of patents. Past administrations ignored patents and appointed PTO leadership that knew nothing about the patent system.
On the other hand, the Obama Administration is seeking to make what should be a nonpartisan system political. For one thing, what is the hold up on naming a new PTO director? If the president is serious about the PTO, why not give the agency a permanent leader? This seems to be more of his go-it-alone approach to governing. A new director would require Senate confirmation. It is hard to understand why that would be difficult (especially given the “nuclear” option that now only requires a majority vote). The president seems to think that he is above dealing with Congress and so doesn’t even want to go through confirmation of a new PTO leader.
HT: Hal Wegner.