Last week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) marked an important milestone: the one-year anniversary of the Enhancing Patent Quality Initiative (EPQI).
Over the last year, the USPTO has undertaken to make changes that will provide better tools to produce high quality patents. In the coming year, it will be critical for the USPTO to finalize and implement long-term changes that achieve its goal. Among the long-term changes the Internet Association hopes to see:
1. Fully implementing the Post Grant Outcomes program, which will ensure that patent examiners are aware of and able to leverage information from any challenges to patents that have related patent applications pending at the PTO.
2. Implementing a meaningful change to encourage clearer patent claims, such as putting definitions of patent claim terms in the written record for patent applications so that the public is aware of what the terms mean.
3. More vigorously demanding algorithms in computer-implemented patent claims, so that software patents don’t claim all ways of achieving a result or function and avoid other problems associated with preemption.
While deeply technical discussions surrounding clarity of the patent record and merit based review processes may seem critical to only a few, patent quality is an issue that is deeply important to our economy and our ability to remain the world’s driver of innovative technologies. Vague, low-quality patents fuel patent trolls, that extort unknowing inventors through burdensome litigation threats and demands that amount to a legal form of extortion: because small inventors and others in the firing line of these trolls often lack the sophisticated legal tools and funding to fight back, they can be prevented from growing their ideas into new inventions in the marketplace. Worse yet, the mere threat of trolls or legal action can chill the desire and attempt to invent in the first place: the exact opposite effect that our patent system was intended to create.
As USPTO continues its efforts to implement meaningful patent quality reform, the Internet Association looks forward to a valuable partnership that achieves our shared goals of a patent system that encourages innovation.