Patent News

May. 22, 2015

The Hill: US patent reform’s international impact, by Robert L. Stoll

This post originally appeared in The Hill on May 22, 2015.

Stoll is a partner and co-chair of the intellectual property group at Drinker Biddle & Reath and a former commissioner for patents at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

In the past several years, the patent system has gone mainstream. There has been a steady stream of press stories — in The New York Times but also local papers, on NPR and also on the local evening news at 11 p.m. — as Congress continues year three of legislative discussions about the best way to reform the system. It would be easy to see this as a domestic conversation about a problem that exists only in the U.S. But that is incorrect — the rest of the world is watching.

Discussions about patent reform are no longer limited to the green eyeshade sect but are common topics in the boardrooms of national and international companies. Governments around the world envy the success of our system as a stimulant for inventiveness and are watching to see what next steps we take. They are also taking matters into their own hands: The EU is finalizing new rules of procedure for the Unified Patent Court; the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) in China just published the latest updates to their patent laws; and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called on India to update patent laws to boost international competitiveness.

The way we frame the problems in the U.S. patent system and the solutions we codify to address them matter a great deal to the future success of the U.S. patent system and our country’s economic competitiveness. The vast majority of stakeholders are collectively motivated to craft solutions that deter abusive behavior by some who have used the threat of litigation to extort payments for vague patents of questionable validity. The costs of the license are often below the likely litigation costs, making it difficult to justify pursuing costly and uncertain litigation instead of just writing a check. There is no doubt that we can do more to curb this “trollish” behavior, no matter who is engaging in it.