09.02.18

The Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC) Needs to Instruct the Patent Office to Stop Treating Applicants as Customers/Clients

Posted in America, Patents at 12:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

That makes as much sense as classrooms viewing pupils as “customers”

Chair

Summary: The USPTO is being abducted by the Big Litigation lobby, just like the EPO (with Battistelli and Team UPC); sadly, this merely dooms the Office, which is supposed to serve science and technology and relies on scientists and technologists to submit high-quality patent applications

LAST month we wrote about USPTO fees being altered. In whose favour? Might Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) inter partes reviews (IPRs) become more expensive still in an effort to discourage filers? The truth of the matter is, Iancu is a destructive force at the Office; he’s serving the litigation ‘industry’ (which he came from).

Later this week “[o]n Thursday, Sept. 6, the Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC) will hold a hearing to discuss the latest USPTO proposals to set or adjust patent related fees. The event will be held at the USPTO’s main campus and will be webcast,” Patently-O wrote. Who will be listened to? “Interested members of the public are invited to testify at the PPAC hearing about the proposed patent fee adjustments. Those wishing to present oral testimony at the hearing must submit a request in writing no later than Aug. 31,” Patently-O added, so it’s too late already.

“The CCIA went further, noting that the USPTO now calls applicants “customers”…”Sadly, Mr. Iancu (Trump’s choice of Director) makes the PTO seem as rogue as the EPO, at least sometimes. Never mind the fact that Iancu’s own firm had worked for Trump before the Trump Administration offered him the job…

A "Strategic Plan" was released by Iancu some days ago even though it was just a draft which reaffirmed suspicions that Iancu was like a ‘mole’ for the litigation ‘industry’.

“In the 2014-2018 Strategic Plan [of the USPTO] the word “customer” appears 12 times,” says the CCIA. The USPTO hasn’t quite recovered from its disastrous downtime (which it tries to distract from with this “Strategic Plan”); refunds are still a sordid mess and the reputation of the Office was severely harmed. The face-saving messages from Iancu only angered stakeholders further; he made no sincere apologies and did not explain the cause of the downtimes (this was not the first), instead framing them as a “feature”, not a bug.

The CCIA went further, noting that the USPTO now calls applicants “customers” (like the EPO calls them) and there’s a lot more:

At the heart of these flaws is the USPTO’s embrace of an inappropriate viewpoint. The USPTO treats applicants as “customers,” catering to them first—sometimes at the expense of the public. The USPTO first took this approach in the early 1990s, when it was first required to fund agency activities with user fees. The agency most explicitly adopted it during the dot-com period, stating that the “primary mission of the Patent Business is to help customers get patents.” While the USPTO later retreated from this statement, the viewpoint appears to be re-emerging in the wake of the USPTO’s authorization to set its own fees. In the 2014-2018 Strategic Plan, the word “customer” appears 12 times; in the draft 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, the word appears 70 times. The USPTO is not a business. Taking a view that treats applicants as customers implicitly places their needs and desires over those of the public.

This has real harms. Prioritizing applicants runs the risk of granting patents that shouldn’t have issued, tying up broad areas of technology and rendering known technology unusable. While invalid patents can be challenged, challenges remain expensive and time-consuming. This is particularly problematic when invalid patents are granted in newly developing areas like artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, augmented reality, or additive manufacturing, where smaller innovators may not have the resources to challenge patents and may decide to innovate in other areas—or not at all.

If the USPTO becomes an agency of the litigation ‘industry’ rather than servant for science and technology, people who actually create things will simply view it as a foe. This is the risk Iancu now takes and the Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC) needs to take that into account later this week. Whose office is it anyway?

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