Director Kappos has created a new blog that is available via the PTO website. The blog (titled the "Director's Forum") looks to be an excellent avenue for the Director to stay in-touch with patent practitioners and patent applicants – both to receive input from the IP community and to serve as a pulpit for PTO proposals. The blog allows comments, although they are moderated.
The first post focuses on how the PTO is attempting to "work for independent inventors." In one portion, Kappos focuses on legislative patent reform and a move to a first-to-file system:
With regard to the patent-priority system, the bill's proposal to move to a first inventor to file system really represents only a minimal change to the process we use now. The new system would not create a situation where someone could steal an idea and win a race to the patent office. That person would not be an inventor and would not be eligible for a patent in the first place. Keep in mind that there are stiff penalties in place to protect against that. So the real issue involves the case of simultaneous non-collaborative invention that is currently resolved through the interference system.
The truth is that only .01 percent of all patent applications could be affected by a change to first inventor to file. The interference system is already biased in favor of the first inventor to file and 70 percent of the extremely small number of cases that get into the interference process are decided in favor of the first inventor to file. For more on these and other issues, I would encourage you to read the text of the speech I gave at the Conference on our Web site.
Of course, it is not true that "only 0.01 percent of all patent applications" could be impacted by a change to first-to-file. The problem is that this figure does not take into account the frequency that patent applicants rely on their invention date to avoid prior art by swearing behind a reference. My own studies find that about 1% of applicants attempt to swear-behind prior art. Applicants swear behind more often in applications that might be termed "valuable." While still small, the 1% frequency is 100 times greater than the PTO's 0.01% figure (which appears to be based on interference tallies).
The data also ignores the frequency that invention date is relied upon during litigation. My preliminary studies show that invention date is more frequently at issue in infringement litigation than at the PTO.
- I'll have a working paper available on these issues later this month.
- Read the Director's Forum Blog.