FTC Examines Patent System Reform

WASHINGTON – In a move sure to please adult webmasters who feel victimized by Acacia's DMT patent claims, during February and March 2005, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Academies' Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy (STEP), and the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) will co-sponsor a nationwide series of town meetings on patent reform.

The first three meetings will take place in San Jose, California, on February 18, 2005; Chicago, Illinois, on March 4, 2005; and Boston, Massachusetts, on March 18, 2005. They will bring together government officials, business representatives, independent inventors, scholars, lawyers, and other members of the patent community to discuss the most significant recommendations for patent reform made by the FTC, the National Academies' STEP Board, and the AIPLA.

Keynote speakers are Will Poole, Senior Vice President, Microsoft, in San Jose; Kenneth Dam, former Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Treasury and now a professor at the University of Chicago, in Chicago; and Cavan Redmond, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the BioPharma Business Unit at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, in Boston. The Honorable Jon Dudas, Undersecretary and Director, United States Patent and Trademark Office, will be the luncheon speaker at all three events. The series will conclude with a meeting in Washington, D.C., on June 9, 2005, with an agenda to be determined later.

Sessions will begin with brief explanations of the proposed changes to the US patent system, followed by opportunities for stakeholders in the patent system to raise and discuss the pros and cons of, and possible improvements to, those proposals.

In the last two years, a series of developments have significantly advanced patent reform proposals. In October 2003, the FTC released its report entitled, "To Promote Innovation: The Proper Balance of Competition and Patent Law and Policy." In April 2004, the National Academies' STEP Board released its report entitled, "A Patent System for the 21st Century." The AIPLA has issued detailed responses,/A> to both reports.

These documents contain recommendations to reform the patent system, including legislative and regulatory changes, which have triggered extensive discussions among the business and patent communities. In October 2004, Representatives Howard Berman and Rick Boucher of the United States House of Representatives introduced a bill (H.R. 5299) that would implement certain recommendations for patent reform.

Representatives from the FTC, the National Academies' STEP Board, and the AIPLA will conduct the meetings, describe the various recommendations for patent reform, and moderate the audience-participation sessions. The sessions will include substantive discussion of several key reform proposals, including "Best Practices: First Inventor to File, Publication, and Related Reforms" and "Shields to Infringement Liability: Prior User Rights and Experimental Use Exception."