Monday, 9 January 2017

The Trump is Coming to Town: AIPLA Provides an IP Wish List

The Trump presidency is looming ahead, but what of intellectual property policy.  Interestingly, BNA reported that a Republican Congressional Representative from California (Issa) called on Trump to keep Michelle K. Lee as head of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  There also have been grumblings about pushing for legislation to undermine and reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s Alice decision on patent eligible subject matter.  Recently, the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) sent an advice letter to Trump regarding intellectual property.  Notably, the AIPLA letter covers patent, trademark and copyright law in some relative detail, and also gives some advice regarding trade secret law, domain names and other matters. 

The copyright focus of the letter relates mostly to Copyright Office leadership choice and modernization.  The trademark focus is on consistency of decision making concerning section 2(a) on disparagement (if it is upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court), removing “deadwood” from the register, protecting U.S. consumers from confusion from U.S. uses of foreign marks well-known in the U.S., and strengthening the Madrid system. 

The patent focus is the longest part of the letter and seems to generally counsel the exercise of care in passing any more patent reform particularly directed at litigation abuse.  The message appears to be that we need to study the changes that have been made to address abuses of the system before we engage in any more changes to address litigation abuse (or at least be fully aware of the changes that have been made).  Notably, the letter states that the existing changes may not address all abuses of the system, but that we also need to consider lawful (non-abusive?) enforcement.  However, there is room for reform in, at least, two areas: the Patent Trial and Appeal Board and patent eligible subject matter.

The letter addresses the Patent Trial and Appeal Board stating:

In the first few years of the PTAB’s existence, its proceedings have been used more than anticipated, and some are concerned that the proceedings, as currently implemented, are not as fair and balanced as they should be, and that they are stacked in favor of those seeking to invalidate patents.  AIPLA believes that the proper balance can be found through targeted changes, and we look forward to working with your Administration in this effort.

And, as alluded to before, patent eligible subject matter and the Alice decision are a major concern.  The letter nicely lays the groundwork for reforming Alice based on administrative necessity and clarity:

Independent inventors, small and large businesses alike need a strong, balanced and predictable patent system to foster R&D, manufacturing and sales.  Section 101 of Title 35 sets out the categories of patent-eligible subject matter that may be entitled to patent protection.  However, recent Supreme Court decisions have created uncertainty about the kinds of innovations that are patent-eligible in certain industries, such as biotechnology and computer software.  Meanwhile, the USPTO has experienced challenges in applying the Court’s evolving interpretation of patent eligibility into its examination processes.  AIPLA believes that more clarity, whether from the courts or from the Congress, is needed in this area, and we ask that efforts to provide such clarity and predictability be supported by your Administration.

The letter concludes with a request for continued and increased enforcement of U.S. IP in foreign markets, continued strengthening of trade secret protection and enforcement given an asserted increase in hacking, and continued involvement in administering the domain name system. 

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