False Marking Lawsuits are Real Problem for Business and Make Little Sense When Applied to Expired Patents

The threat of false marking lawsuits has garnered much attention in the IP business press in the last couple of years.  Companies of all sizes have been hit with qui tam actions (that is, suits brought by an individual or company on behalf of the US government to right wrongs done to the government, not the individual) where the basis of the action is the mis-marking of a product with an incorrect or expired patent number.  Like a gold rush, these lawsuits have resulted in a number of legal entrepreneurs seeking out products that are incorrectly marked–usually by identification of expired patents, which is an easy thing to find–and their bringing suit against the offending companies.  Indeed, there were over 500 false marking lawsuits filed in 2010, making this cause of action seem almost like a way for un- or under-employed patent lawyers to generate income after the rash of layoffs and firm closings in the last few years. For patent lawyers representing corporations, false marking cases may seem like a pain for clients, but something which nonetheless leads to business if a suit is brought against his client.  But, in reality, the uncertainty raised by the current rash of Continue Reading →

We’re Measuring the Wrong Things: Inventiveness and Patents Do Not Equal Innovation

Few things infuriate me more than supposed experts who make statements along the lines of “patents are critical to innovation.”  I have avoided stating my views widely in this forum because I didn’t want to get into a contest of one upmanship with my patent lawyer peers.  However, in the last couple of weeks, several pieces of information have hit my radar screen that make this seem like the right time to go public with my views. Let my position be very clear:  we create a false dichotomy when saying “innovation is not possible without patents.”  The issue is much more complex and nuanced than this:  in a particular instance, patents may be critical to innovation, but they might also be only slightly important or–likely in the majority of situations–they might be wholly irrelevant to innovation.  (I talk more about this in this recent interview in Innovation Management Magazine.) Unfortunately, where you stand also depends on where you sit, and sitting behind a desk writing or examining patents may color your belief that patents are the cure for America’s innovation ills.  (The cynic would likely note that relying on a patent practitioner or the Commissioner of the US Patent Office Continue Reading →

Innovation is Sprouting in US Patent Office: A Plea for Flexibility from Patent Practitioners and Interested Parties to Allow the Necessary Changes

Anyone who has practiced IP law for a few years can attest to the transformations happening in the US Patent Office over the last year.  In my opinion, Director Kappos is more than a breathe of fresh air over his predecessors, he actually knows what he is doing!  Also, regardless of what one may think of President Obama’s other policies and actions, one cannot question that his leadership is resulting in real attempts at innovation in the arguably previously moribund Patent Office. As a experienced patent practitioner, the last several years have been very demoralizing.  I actually made the decision to stop working as a patent prosecutor because, quite simply, I became weary trying to educate junior examiners about the deeply nuanced intricacies of patent law.  Worse was trying to explain to clients why their patent application covering an important commercial innovation could not get approved in the Kafkaesque environment of the circa 2000′s US Patent Office or why their competitors were seemingly able to get ridiculously broad patents covering the prior art. From my vantage point as a 15+ year patent professional, it is clear that the absence of experienced leadership in the Patent Office in recent years served Continue Reading →

Guest Poster David Boundy: A Detailed Examination of What the Proposed First to File Legislation Means to Business

(Editorial Note:  Last week, I posted my thoughts on the proposed changes to the US patent laws from a first to invent to a first to file system.  In response to my post, I received an exceedingly detailed and substantive comment from David Boundy, Vice President, Ass’t Gen’l Counsel, Intellectual Property at Cantor, Fitzgerald.  (David wanted me to say that this post his personal view, and does not reflect the views of Cantor, Fitzgerald.)  David’s viewpoint on what the proposed legislation will mean to business deserves a forum, and he has graciously allowed me to post his comment in total on the IP Asset Maximizer Blog.  Anyone who works with business to generate patent assets should be concerned about the proposed changes.) About guest poster David Boundy:   David Boundy has spent over a decade on Wall Street, first in several of New York’s most prominent law firms, now as in-house counsel at one of Wall Street’s largest investment banks.   In several years of his career, David as one single lawyer moved more money around based on patents than the entire federal judiciary combined.   David believes that litigation costs and damages should be irrelevant to the current patent reform debate; what matters Continue Reading →

A Closer Look at the Patent Office’s New Conversation about Adoption of a “First to File” Rule and a Proposal for a Win-Win for the Patent Office and Inventors

(Editorial Note:  Regular readers of the IP Asset Maximizer Blog might find this post an departure from the usual topics discussed on this blog.  In the almost 2 years I have been blogging, I have consciously avoided talking about specific aspects of patent law, both in the form of case law, patent reform efforts and the US Patent Office itself because I believe there are many great blogs that do a great job that frequently discuss these topics and that I can likely add little to the already substantive discussions occurring elsewhere.  However, given the great significance of the so-called “first to invent” system to the interests of individual and corporate inventors alike, I felt it appropriate to weigh in on the conversation.  Put simply, any changes in the first to invent rule must clearly flesh out and respond to the resulting effects to businesses of all sizes, as well as unintended consequences that might occur to the operations of the US Patent Office.  I think my business-focused approach to this topic may provide a perspective not seen on the other blogs discussing this topic.  I welcome your comments.) The new Patent Office Administration has hit the ground running.  In Continue Reading →