SEMA eNews Vol. 17, No. 9, February 27, 2014

Obama Administration Seeks to Strengthen Patent Procedures, Address Patent Trolls

By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff

The White House announced progress on a series of initiatives intended to strengthen the patent system, make it easier for small businesses to file applications and combat patent trolls. Among other actions, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is drafting regulations to make recorded patent owner information more transparent to the public.

The agency is training its examiners to more rigorously examine so-called “functional claims” to ensure claims are clear and can be consistently enforced. The USPTO is expanding online toolkits intended to educate and protect consumers and retailers from abuse before they enter into settlement agreements or pursue litigation. The USPTO is working with the U.S. International Trade Commission to refine procedures that would make enforcement of patent exclusion orders more effective. The USPTO will seek assistance from the general public and industry to help patent examiners, holders and applicants find relevant “prior art”—technical information patent examiners need to make a determination of whether an invention is truly novel. The agency will work with the private sector to help train patent examiners, and also expand resources available to inventors and small businesses seeking to file patent applications.  

The White House also urged congress to enact legislation to combat patent trolling. At issue are frivolous lawsuits asserting that a company or individual is infringing a patent. The entity making the assertion is usually seeking licensing fees but not actually manufacturing a product or supplying services. A SEMA-supported bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last December is pending in the Senate. 

For more information, contact Stuart Gosswein at stuartg@sema.org.

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