Yesterday, the House Committee on the Judiciary had a hearing on the issues that make a case for patent reform. Chairman Berman opened the meeting with the statement that there needs to be ââ?¬Å?an effort to improve patent quality, deter abusive practices by unscrupulous patent holders, and provide meaningful, low-cost alternatives to litigation for challenging patent validity.ââ?¬Â? The hearing, with its stated goal and the promise to introduce new legislation to achieve that goal, seems to show that the newly elected Democrat-controlled Congress is making patent reform a priority. The Committee heard statements from Adam B. Jaffe (PDF), Professor and Dean at Brandeis University, Suzanne Michel (PDF), Chief IP Counsel at the FTC, Mark Myers of the National Academy of Science, and Daniel B. Ravicher (PDF), Director of PubPat. The central theme discussed by all of the witnesses was how the issuance of ââ?¬Ë?bad patentsââ?¬â?¢ begets ââ?¬Ë?bad applicationsââ?¬â?¢, which leads to more ââ?¬Ë?bad patentsââ?¬â?¢ and so on and so forth. In order to break this vicious cycle, the PTO examiners need better access to information (read: prior art). The fact that the CAFC has been giving patentees more weapons to attack the validity of patents (see MedImmune), which in turn leads to more litigation that results in a disincentive for innovation was mentioned by Professor Jaffe. Dan Ravicher also expressed displeasure with the courts given their difficulties (read: the number of District Court decisions being overturned by the CAFC) and inconsistencies in elucidating what the claims mean in a given patent. Perhaps the pilot program for specialized judges will create more informed judicial decisions at the District Court level and allow for the CAFC to follow suit. Additionally, Dan Ravicherââ?¬â?¢s suggestion to utilize existing statutory language that prohibits indefinite claim language is another way to inform judicial opinions while creating much desired consistency (see 2nd paragraph on p. 14). The Peer-to-Patent project and the proliferation of patent databases are current solutions in the works that will address the issue of having better informed examiners. Perhaps given the newfound political motivation for patent reform, and the solutions in the works to address the issues presented yesterday, the next round of patent reform legislation will get the support it needs to be passed.

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