August 24, 2014

5 senators urge USPTO to address patent trolling

Aug. 14, 2014 – Five key senators are urging Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker to get the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, housed within Commerce, to take steps now to strengthen the patent process and help stem the tide of abusive patent trolling.

Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Mark Warner of Virginia, Mark Begich of Alaska and Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, both of New Mexico, noted widespread coverage of abuses by patent assertion entities claiming poor-quality patents and engaging in abusive litigation. They said it's important that the Patent and Trademark Office use every tool available to improve patent quality and the patent examination process, particularly in light of recent court rulings to tighten patent-quality standards.

In their letter, the senators urged PTO efforts to increase industry expertise among patent examiners; increase patent examiner training; and reduce ambiguity about valid rejections of low-quality patents. These recommendations are reflected in language included in the Appropriations Committee report to the 2013 appropriations law for PTO.

NAFCU has been working for patent reform as a growing number of credit unions report the receipt of demand letters from patent assertion entities. These often target the use of commonly used technology. One of the goals in this effort is to improve available information about patents – as recommended in the senators' recent letter – so patent trolls cannot so easily abuse the system.