Thursday, February 05, 2009

Gregg at Commerce

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("the PTO") reports to the Secretary of Commerce, so patent practitioners are wondering what attitudes Sen. Judd Gregg might have towards patents. Patently O reports on Senator Gregg's past activities in the field:
As it turns out, one of Senator Gregg's more controversial actions involves patent issues. In 2000, Gregg's alma mater Columbia University convinced Greg to insert a patent extension provision into an ag spending bill. If it had passed, the extension would have given new life to Columbia's about-to-expire patents that were earning $100 million annually through licensing agreements. [NYTimes][Quinn].

In the past, Senator Gregg has sponsored legislation for rapid approval of generic biosimilars after expiration of the original patents and legislation to extend patents that help support the war on terror. For years, Senator Gregg has also been deeply involved in appropriations.
Apparently, he's all in favor or special patent rules for some. Blech. Watch to see if anyone questions him about these positions during his confirmation hearings.

We patent attorneys have been through a lot the past few years. Under Commissioner Jon Dudas, the PTO sought to radically, wildly change patent rules ostensibly to make the Patent Office more efficient. The new rules were complicated to the nth degree; every patent attorney spent countless hours trying to understand them, attending meetings to learn about them, revamping docketing systems, or paying for revamped docketing systems, to accommodate them. The new rules made no sense. The Patent Office did road shows around the country to explain the new rules, only to demonstrate during the Q&A that they had no answers for all kinds of common real-world scenarios. We railed against them and got organized in ways our professional has never done. We believed the PTO exceeded its authority in enacting these rules, which robbed patent applicants of statutorily-specified opportunities for protecting their inventions. The new rules were in effect for a matter of hours when a suit was brought to enjoin their enforcement and a district court granted the injunction. The new rules were kaput. Here's hoping the new patent commissioner, who will be appointed by the Commerce Secretary, has a deep understanding of the patent system and we don't have to go through anything like this again.

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