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Inventors And Patent Attorneys Sue USPTO Over Supposedly Unqualified Appointment

from the good-or-bad? dept

Nick writes "Looks like a group of patent lawyers and inventors are suing the US Secretary of Commerce to block the appointment of an "unqualified" person to the spot of Deputy Director of the USPTO, claiming its an abuse of the Secretary's discretion. There are two ways to look at this: either it's a noble attempt to ensure the right people are in place to oversee the patent and trademark office and to keep out political hacks, or (as Techdirt might see it) an attempt by patent people to keep their business protected from outsiders. Whether or not this person's appointment should be blocked based on her background as a legislative adviser on IP issues seems debatable, but she apparently has never drafted a patent or trademark application before, which allegedly doesn't jive with the requirement that the Deputy Director have 'professional experience and background in patent or trademark law.' The suit does ask the District Court in DC to clarify exactly what qualifies as patent or trademark background, so maybe some good will come out of it. But it also begs the question: is the backlog and confusion in the patent office the result of bad management there or the result of a community of insulated patent specialists that want to assert their importance in the new info economy?"

Nick's analysis is pretty thorough, so there's not much for us to add. We have no doubt that there have been some bad appointees to the USPTO, but it's not clear this lawsuit is the way to go about fixing these problems. The people bringing the lawsuit definitely do note the rise in bad patents being granted, though it's hard to blame that on an appointee from two months ago. This does highlight that this particular appointment does seem more politically motivated than based on real knowledge and experience with the patent system -- but it's not at all clear how having a patent attorney who has experience drafting patents would necessarily make the system any better. In fact, just as it has been a problem for the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, those who come out of a background of being patent attorneys tend to favor more patents, rather than better patents (not always true, but there's enough evidence suggesting that it's pretty common). Since the goal of the USPTO should be to foster innovation, shouldn't the criteria not be experience with patents and trademarks, but experience with actual innovation and the economic impact of innovation?

Filed Under: patents, politics, uspto


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2007 @ 11:42am

    So let me get this straight...

    this group of people decided that the best way to resolve this conflict was to sue? Now I'm not a lawyer but isn't the point of a lawsuit to win money for damages?

    I'm confused...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      AMP, 23 Jul 2007 @ 12:26pm

      Re: So let me get this straight...

      Not always. People sue all the time to get injunctions, restraining orders, gag rules, custody battles etc. I have no evidence to back this up, but I would think that suits for monetary damages are not that much more prevelant than any other type of suit. We jsut hear about them more. Of course I could be way wrong about that last statement

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Willton, 23 Jul 2007 @ 12:39pm

        Re: Re: So let me get this straight...

        In intellectual property cases, usually the result that is asked for is an injunction, as it prevents certain people or organizations from using a certain trademark or patented/copyrighted thing. The idea is that if someone were to continually infringe a copyright, patent or trademark, it would cause irreparable harm to the owner of that right.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2007 @ 12:26pm

    Welcome back Mike! It has been an "interesting" two weeks here without you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Willton, 23 Jul 2007 @ 12:41pm

    That's not begging the question

    Next time Nick wants to use the phrase "begs the question," he should learn how to use it correctly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Matt, 23 Jul 2007 @ 12:56pm

    They're suing to prevent an underqualified NSA man

    You want someone who managed the tons of "leaks" in the NSA for the patent office?

    this guy was head of NSA for the house of reps?

    I hope the suit goes through, the NSA hasn't done jack of good for us in the past 30+years

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Xanius, 23 Jul 2007 @ 1:26pm

      Nice try matt but..

      They aren't suing to prevent Carlos Gutierrez from being in there, he's the secretary of commerce. They are suing to prevent Margaret Peterlin from being appointed as Deputy Director of the USPTO.
      And head of NSA for the house of reps isn't true either, she was the National Security Adviser for the speaker of the house, as well as the general counsel for the house majority leader.
      You're either trying to make her seem like something she isn't, either because you didn't pass the reading comprehension portion of any test you ever taken or deliberately.

      However just after reading her executive bio on the USPTO site it doesn't seem like she has any experience in Patents, just general and international law.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        matt, 23 Jul 2007 @ 8:54pm

        sorry to not clarify

        I read over far too quickly there, sorry about that. Should have checked replies.

        However, she has no patent experience, and I don't see where she was qualified to work on things involving intellectual property before that. Did I miss that part?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Matt, 23 Jul 2007 @ 12:57pm

    whups clarification

    sorry to clarify, he was the national security advisor, which is just as bad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Squidly, 23 Jul 2007 @ 2:33pm

    Interesting Patent Stuff

    I found the "Security Now: Episode 93" podcast between Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte discussing the Microsoft Patent Wars very interesting and informative.

    While this specific podcast diverts from the usual "Security" topics, it is very informative on software patents and I think Steve brings up some very good points.
    Check out the Security Now homepage at http://www.grc.com/securitynow.htm to download podcasts for free.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dean Landolt, 24 Jul 2007 @ 6:58am

    Patent backlogs

    "...is the backlog and confusion in the patent office the result of bad management there..."

    As a contractor there, I can say with absolute certainty: YES. But from a policy perspective, the backlog is the result of incentivizing bad patent applications, as Techdirt's done a great job of highlighting.

    "...or the result of a community of insulated patent specialists that want to assert their importance in the new info economy?"

    It would certainly seem that these connected specialists harbor a great deal of influence when it comes to the PTO setting policy, the gross mismanagement of the agency cannot be attributed to a few lawsuits and hordes of overzealous patent attorneys.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan, 8 Jan 2008 @ 5:13pm

    Yeah So What?

    She's from the college of the holy cross. They're one of the most corrupt schools on the planet. They specialize in appointing people to government posts. Got a cousin who works there. He tells me all sorts of stories about the college breaking state and federal laws to cut costs.

    Jeez! What Phoneys!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    don, 29 Apr 2009 @ 1:06pm

    Nick writes "But it also begs the question: is the backlog and confusion in the patent office the result of bad management there or the result of a community of insulated patent specialists that want to assert their importance in the new info economy?"

    You've not much dealings with patent examiners, huh? At least these people understand due process and the letter of the law.

    The idea that you can bring another Bush-style political hack into the leadership, along with the neophyte Dodd, neither of whom have much understanding at the nuts and bolts level, and not expect them to screw everything up - this notion is for idiots who have never had to understand how anything complex works at the nuts-and -bolts level.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    don, 29 Apr 2009 @ 1:06pm

    Nick writes "But it also begs the question: is the backlog and confusion in the patent office the result of bad management there or the result of a community of insulated patent specialists that want to assert their importance in the new info economy?"

    You've not much dealings with patent examiners, huh? At least these people understand due process and the letter of the law.

    The idea that you can bring another Bush-style political hack into the leadership, along with the neophyte Dodd, neither of whom have much understanding at the nuts and bolts level, and not expect them to screw everything up - this notion is for idiots who have never had to understand how anything complex works at the nuts-and -bolts level.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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