First, President Biden’s new U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director was recently confirmed by the Senate. The USPTO already has the tools needed to resolve patent disputes through expert arbiters on the Patent Trial Appeal Board (PTAB). Through the PTAB’s inter partes review (IPR) process, judges who are experts in both patent law and technology can more fairly resolve patent infringement claims, invalidating bad patents that never should have been issued in the first place when they are weaponized against manufacturers and innovators. It’s critical that the new USPTO Director strengthens PTAB and restores the IPR process, allowing the office to mediate these disputes, rather than forcing companies into costly and less effective jury trials.
This is a problem that Congress already addressed once before. A decade ago, the bipartisan America Invents Act (AIA) established IPR to negate the need for litigation. But the previous USPTO Director instituted the NHK-Fintiv Rule – which runs contrary to the AIA – making it more difficult for innovators to access IPR. Under the rule, reviews may be denied if court proceedings related to the infringement claim are already underway, even though the estimated trial date is wrong 95 percent of the time. These so-called discretionary denials can be issued without even assessing the merits of the patent or claim in question. Instead of receiving transparent, expert review, infringement claims are left to expensive litigation in front of non-expert juries.
That’s why Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) have introduced the Restoring the American Invents Act (RAIA). Their bill will reverse the damaging changes made to IPR by the previous PTO Director. Senator Leahy and Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) have also introduced the Pride in Patent Ownership Act, which would give the public access to information about the true owner of patents. These two bipartisan, commonsense bills will increase transparency, bolster innovation, and strengthen America’s patent system.
It’s critical that Congress send these commonsense bills to President Biden’s desk and that the USPTO act now to restore IPR.