PublishedJanuary 26, 2009

CCIA Calls for Innovation, Reform With PTO Appointees

The Computer & Communications Industry Association is calling on the Obama Administration to appoint people to the Commerce Department and Patent and Trademark Office to who can bring reform and encourage innovation. CCIA said this is an area where change is needed and we must break the tie between bureaucracy and the special interests, which have captured this area.

“We have to recognize that the entire intellectual property system – patents, copyrights and trademarks – is in crisis and loosing credibility. The Administration needs someone who can bring reform instead of just attacking critics,” said CCIA President & CEO Ed Black.

“IP policy has been administered with a sort of ‘you’re with us or against us approach’ and you couldn’t propose reforms without being pigeonholed as anti-IP,” Black said. “However much we believe copyright, patents, and trademarks are valuable, it has become abundantly clear that too much IP protection can be as harmful as too little, and that the structure, limitations and exceptions of IP need attention if the overall system is to function well for all of society.”

CCIA is also asking the Obama Administration to designate an Undersecretary for Intellectual Property who can address the broad challenges in innovation policy facing the nation. “We need someone who is a visionary, as well as a manager and a diplomat,” Black said. “PTO can be important to making innovation work, but it needs to be connected to broader thinking about innovation and concerned with results, not just churning out patents.”

The Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property not only oversees the operations of the Patent and Trademark Office but is charged with advising the administration on intellectual property policy which has become more complicated in a global economy and our digital era.

In the patent area alone, today there is a growing backlog of over 1.2 million patent applications awaiting approval. The Office lacks capacity to conduct economic analysis; and there is growing concern that the patent system is not working well for important areas of the economy, including information technology and services. Innovators in information technology are faced with thousands, even hundreds of thousands of patents, and the need to hire lawyers to interpret and evaluate them.

The patent bar has asked the Obama Administration to appoint someone experienced in patent law. “While we would all like our interests represented by one of our own, the patent system has grown too diverse, complex, and controversial to be left to lawyers,” Black said. “Any good attorney must be familiar with the details of patent law, and there are plenty of them at the PTO. We need somebody who can bring the whole of patent policy into the 21st Century with a objective understanding of the system’s strengths, weaknesses, and limitations.”

In addition, CCIA has advocated an independent Institute for Innovation Economics and Patent Policy as essential element to making the system work effectively for all sectors. “Without evidence-based analysis, there is no alternative to the loudest voices of the biggest customers, i.e., patent lawyers and the industries most dependent on patents, most notably pharmaceuticals,” Black said.

For the past three years, patent reform has been stymied by inter-industry disputes over the proper scope of reform. During the last Congress, the administration played only a reactive role, eventually opposing the reform legislation, although supporting parts of it. Brian Kahin, CCIA Senior Fellow, explained: “Business as usual is not an option. The Obama Administration needs to lead, not only in addressing the immediate needs for reform, but in reinventing the framework for patent policy.”

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