Last evening I attended the first of three patent reform roundtable discussions being hosted by Townsend and Townsend and Crew.
The Townsend attorneys, Ted Herhold, Ted Apple, and Paul Haughey, lead a discussion relating to the changes to the patent laws proposed (last session) in HR 5299 (co-sponsored by Congressmen Berman and Boucher), the FTC's 2003 Report To Promote Innovation, and a 2004 report by the National Academy of Science entitled A Patent System for the 21st Century. Partly galvanized by the high costs of litigation and the perception (perhaps truth!) that there are more worthless patents issuing from the PTO today than ever before, it seems that some sort of legislative action is immenent.For lawyers and companies who deal heavily in patents, the proposed reforms are dramatic. Changes including adding a post-grant opposition proceeding for a 9-month period after a patent issues, changes to the standards for obviousness, modifying the grounds for obtaining an injunction against an infringer, willfulness standards. Many obvious questions come out of these reforms... Are these reforms likely to provide real results that are beneficial to the public? How will the results of the proposed post-grant opposition proceedings impact later litigation? Who will the APJs that preside over the oppositions be? Where will they come from? Who is going to pay for them? Why not fix the patent prosecution system and improve the quality of patents that issue, instead of providing this new layer of bureaucracy within the PTO?
Because these reforms are many and quite detailed, I would highly recommend attending one of Townsend's additional roundtable discussions and also one of the upcoming FTC "town meetings." Here's the 411...
Townsend is holding additional roundtable discussions at their San Francisco and San Diego offices on Jan. 27 and Feb. 10, respectively. You can register for those sessions at Townsend's website.
The FTC is also co-sponsoring "Town Meetings on Patent System Reform" in three cities (San Jose, Chicago, and Boston) on dates in February and March. You can sign up for these town meetings at the AIPLA website.
Those interested in patent busting in general, should check out EFF's Patent Busting Project.