Lee Hopes for Patent Bill Action

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By Tripp Baltz

Aug. 18 — The window is still open for Congress to pass patent reform legislation this year, Michelle Lee, the director of the Patent and Trademark Office, said Aug. 17.

“It is a priority of this administration to achieve a balanced and meaningful intellectual property system,” she said. “There are a lot of people working hard on these issues, which are still more relevant and important as ever.”

“The most valuable assets of leading companies today are intangibles like IP,” she said. “One of the most immediate implications is that because intangible assets can be more easily copied, the system we use to protect and enforce IP rights is more important than ever.”

Speaking at the 2015 Technology Policy Institute Forum in Aspen, Colo., Lee said she is hopeful Congress will move forward on legislation in September. But in an interview after her speech, Lee declined to say which version of the main bills pending in the House and Senate (H.R. 9 and S. 1137) the administration favors.

Abusive Patent Litigation

Lee said she believes it is important for the legislation to target abusive patent litigation by patent trolls which target small business or businesses with little sophistication.

“This abuse of litigation has no place in today's marketplace,” she said. “Such abuses are not conducive to business and innovation.”

Following her speech, Lee participated in a panel discussion with Daniel Marti, intellectual property enforcement coordinator for the Office of Management and Budget in the White House, that touched on other IP issues.

Copyright Office

Marti said there would be “pros and cons” to moving the Copyright Office out of the Library of Congress into the Patent and Trademark Office or other executive branch department.

Marti joined Lee in discussing how to “have a state-of-the-art IP system,” he said. Protection of IP rights is key, he said.

One example is coordination of efforts with other countries to crack down on piracy. “We are working with payment processors to halt payments to these rogue Web sites,” Marti said.

He added he would like for government agencies to publish “generalized, anonymized data” about financial institutions facilitating transactions that infringe upon IP rights of U.S. companies.

Enforcing Against Internet Criminals

“We are working to secure safety, and enforce against criminal networks seeking to exploit everything that is great about the Internet,” Marti said.

Lee argued for the global marketplace to harmonize IP law “substantially and procedurally.” She said China is interested in making legislative changes in patents, trade secrets, copyrights and trademarks—all things U.S. IP laws protect.

“China is looking to move from a manufacturing-based economy making products invented in other countries to an innovation-based economy where inventions are made in China,” Lee said. They are looking to expand IP protections “not just because their trade partners are asking them to, but because it is in their best interest to do so.”

PTAB Rules

Lee said the Patent and Trademark Office is “very close” to publishing a proposed rule package containing changes to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board Trial Rules that govern the conduct of America Invents Act trial proceedings.

Lee said the office also is planning to initiate a patent fee-setting and adjusting process, but she declined to say whether fees would be increased.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tripp Baltz in Aspen, Colo., at abaltz@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar at amazumdar@bna.com

Text of Lee's speech to the TPI Forum is at http://www.uspto.gov/about-us/news-updates/remarks-director-michelle-k-lee-technology-policy-institute-aspen-forum

Lee's March 27 blog post is at http://www.uspto.gov/blog/director/entry/ptab_s_quick_fixes_for