In a letter last week to Secretary Pritzker (DOC), a group of five Democratic Senators have urged for administrative patent reforms to “prevent low-quality, vague patents from entering the market.” The group include Senators Jeff Merkley, Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich, Mark Begich and Mark Warner.
Although the letter does not provide direct policy plans, it does provide a set of guidance that should be well taken by the Patent Office:
(1) Take steps to incentivize examination quality over quantity.
(2) Direct Examiners to ensure that the patent file history is complete and resolves any ambiguities with clarified patent terms prior to issuance.
(3) Assess whether the PTO’s steps to “address functional claiming concerns . . . are sufficient to address concerns that functional claiming provides a loophole from definite, precise claims.”
(4) Expand crowdsourcing and public data analysis as a mechanism to identify problematic patents and categories of patents — then target those areas for more thorough examination.
(5) Ensure public access to information about patents and the file histories.
The suggestions by the Senators are all helpful and are directed to an area of patent law ripe for reform. Lets hope that the USPTO can take these suggestions and create sensible policy.