USPTO Economic Research Agenda

The USPTO has a new Office of the Chief Economist and they have recently published their research agenda.

USPTO Economic Research Agenda

The OCE is embarking upon an aggressive economic research program to provide evidence on a range of matters relevant to policymaking and the effect of IP on economic outcomes more generally.  These include:

(1) Relating IP to economic growth, performance and employment, including:             

            (a)  IP and entrepreneurship                                 

            (b)  IP and wider economy-wide growth.                              

(2) IP in de facto standards, standard setting, and standards policy.

(3) Researching the economics of trademarks and trademark examination.

(4) Understanding the economics of USPTO initiatives, including initiatives to reduce application backlogs, by better understanding their costs, benefits, and effects.

(5) Analyzing the role that IP plays in the markets for technology and knowledge 

Report on a conference discussing the “Research Agenda”  at the University of California (09/10/2010)

For more specifics from the PTO website click here.

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Is the Myriad Case Decision and/or the DOJ Brief TRIPS Compliant?

Judge Sweet seemed to dismiss Myriad’s constitutional taking and TRIPS claims by indicating:

“Finally, Myriad’s suggestion that invalidating the patents-in-suit would constitute an unconstitutional taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution or a violation of the United States’ obligations under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“TRIPS”) is unpersuasive. Myriad’s novel taking argument runs counter to a long history of invalidation of patent claims by the courts and is unsupported by legal precedent. Similarly,Articles 8.1 and 27.3 of TRIPS permit governments to incorporate public health concerns into their intellectual property law and to exclude from patentability diagnostic, therapeutic, or surgical methods as well as particular inventions on the grounds of public interest. As a result, invalidation of the patents-in-suit would constitution neither a constitutional violation nor a conflict with the Untied States’ treaty obligations.” Pages 106-107. Emphasis added.

Alnylam’s Appellate Brief to the Circuit Court in the Myriad case argues that “excluding certain “compositions of matter” from patent-eligibility would violate the United States’ treaty obligations under the TRIPS Agreement.” pg. 17  The Brief goes on to discuss this legal issue as well as international policy implications.  pg. 18-19

Questions for thought:

1.  Would ‘isolated DNA’ even constitute an “invention” under TRIPS Article 27.1?  How do other nations view patentability of ‘isolated DNA’ and how does that affect a TRIPS analysis? See European Union Biotechnology Directive and WIPO’s “Information provided by WIPO Member States Concerning Practices Related to the Protection of Biotechnology Inventions.”

According to practice, a Dispute Panel would use the ordinary meaning of the word (probably from the Oxford English Dictionary) and look at common practice around the world.  Isolated DNA seems to meet the definition of ‘invention’ and the resources mentioned above seem to back up the assertion. 

2.  What about Alnylam’s “discriminatory… as to the field of technology” argument?  Does Judge Sweet’s opinion discriminate against DNA based patents and/or the Biotechnology Industry?  How does the DOJ’s Brief fare? 

Based on a WTO Dispute Panel analysis on discrimiation in a similar context (see CANADA – PATENT PROTECTION OF PHARMACEUTICAL. PRODUCTS), it seems that both Judge Sweet and the DOJ Brief are discriminating against DNA based patents and the biotechnology industry.  Judge Sweet creates a patentability exemption for ‘isolated DNA’ and DNA based inventions (to an unknown point).  The DOJ seem to create a new ‘isolation’ test which implicates much more than ‘isolated DNA’.  Both approaches specifically target the biotechnology ‘field of technology’ and have devastating effects on the industry.

BIO’s Comments on proposed PTO Humanitarian Technologies and Licensing Through the Intellectual Property System

Here are the highlights from BIO’s recent submission on the proposed PTO “Request for Comments on Incentivizing Humanitarian Technologies and Licensing Through the Intellectual Property System.”  

Background:

1.  “BIO’s members also understand that problems with access to medicines and other biotechnology products in the developing world have very little to do with the patent system, and are generally caused by other factors outside the control of individual stakeholders, such as lack of adequate local manufacturing, delivery, public health and sanitation infrastructure, trade and tariff barriers, regulatory obstacles, lack of market incentives, inequitable local distribution and corruption, diversion of products to more lucrative markets, and a chronic underinvestment in public health, education and environmental conservation. In fact, access issues persist even in countries where there are no patents covering humanitarian products and technologies.”

 2.  “While the patent system cannot be a primary policy lever to address these complex questions above, BIO nonetheless believes that innovative businesses from all sectors of the U.S. economy, including the biotechnology industry, can help improve the lives of underprivileged populations in the developing world. Indeed, BIO member companies have long participated in specific access and licensing initiatives that have informed the policy choices of members of the industry.”  (See http://www.globalhealthprogress.org/, http://www.ifpma.org/healthpartnerships, http://www.bvgh.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=867bPGw-kYo%3d&tabid=105, http://www.aatf-africa.org/, and http://www.cimmyt.org/.)

 “Most recently, in May of this year, BIO announced a policy statement containing its Options for Increasing Access to Medicines in the Developing World that it believes should be considered during the development and commercialization of biotechnology products.  Accordingly, BIO commends the USPTO for likewise exploring creative and market-oriented ways to incentivize the development and distribution of humanitarian technologies, a goal that BIO and its members have long shared and are working hard to achieve. In addition, BIO would support efforts to bring together all potential stakeholders to explore various approaches and initiatives.”

Key Points:

1.  Any program should be technology-neutral – “In BIO’s view, such a program should be applicable to innovators from all sectors who engage in the creation and dissemination of technology that has the potential to address the needs of impoverished populations in the developing world.”

 2.  Any proposal should ensure USPTO’s core mission is maintained and adequately resourced.

 3.  Value of any proposed vouchers should be maximized, but will remain limited – “BIO believes that the commercial value of the proposed voucher could be substantial under some situations, but difficult to express in monetary terms at this time.” 

4.  Clarity of standing for voucher use needed – “BIO members are seriously concerned that vouchers could potentially be used by third party requesters, or even unrelated third parties, to accelerate the ex parte reexamination of other party’s patents without the patentee’s consent.”

5.  Policy options for voucher award process require further discussion – “BIO members also raised the question whether the proposed vouchers should be awarded as an entitlement for meeting certain objective criteria, or as a more subjective prize for extraordinary humanitarian licensing efforts.”

Conclusion:

“BIO understands this Federal Register notice to be a first conceptual step in what will be a deliberative process with additional opportunities for public review and comment as more specific details and approaches are proposed. With this understanding, we look forward to engaging further on this effort in partnership with the USPTO and other industries and stakeholders.”

BIO’s Full Comment

Recent Federal Register Notices

 A collection of Federal Register Notices dating back to November 5th. 

Mainly for Small and Medium sized Enterprises: (SME) Government Programs to Assist Businesses Protect Their Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in Foreign Markets; Notice of Extension of Comment Period

PTO Proposed Rule: Rules of Practice Before the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences in Ex Parte Appeals

PTO Notice: Expansion and Extension of the Green Technology Pilot Program

BIO Press Release: BIO and AUTM file Amicus Brief in Myriad Case

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Friday, October 29th, in an appeal of a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a number of plaintiffs against Myriad Genetics, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and others.

The brief, filed jointly with the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), supports the patentability of isolated DNA molecules, noting that invalidating the patentability of these molecules would discourage future biotechnological innovation.  DNA-based patents are a critical tool that help enable the fundamental research and development of new biotech products, therapies and technologies to fight deadly diseases, expand agricultural production, clean the environment, and reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil. 

Isolating a DNA molecule, in addition to creating a new chemical molecule that does not exist in nature, imparts new utilities and functions that are not available from native DNA.  The utility of isolated DNA molecules derives from their chemical structure, which is developed by human ingenuity using complex scientific expertise and equipment. As a result, isolated DNA molecules are patentable subject matter based on decades of U.S. case law.

 “Unless reversed, the district court’s ruling will seriously harm the U.S. biotechnology industry, which consists largely of small firms that are engaged in foundational research and dependent on private investment to fund their work,” stated BIO President & CEO Jim Greenwood.  “Patent protection is critical for the ability of biotechnology firms to secure the private investment necessary for the research and development of innovative diagnostic, therapeutic, environmental and agricultural products. This innovation will lead to domestic job creation and help sustain our country’s global competitiveness.”

 If the Court of Appeals affirms the district court’s categorical rejection of the patentability of isolated DNA molecules, it would cast a cloud of uncertainty over thousands of similar patents and compromise the ability of biotechnology firms to pursue groundbreaking discoveries in human healthcare, renewable energy, and sustainable agriculture. 

 “Patentability of isolated DNA molecules is critical to the translation of university research discoveries for the public good. Without this, many promising discoveries would not make their way from the university research lab and into the hands of companies for development of products which improve the public health,” stated AUTM President Ashley J. Stevens.

“From the mass production of life-saving medicines by cell cultures to the screening of our blood supply for life-threatening viruses, patented DNA molecules have been put to countless uses that have benefited society,” concluded BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood. 

The joint BIO-AUTM amicus brief is available at http://bio.org/ip/amicus/BIO_AUTM_Amicus_Brief_AMP_v_USPTO_2010-1406_FedCir.pdf.  Additional background materials are available at http://bio.org/ip/genepat

USPTO Requesting Comments on Humanitarian Technologies

In case you missed it, on September 20 the United States Patent Office issued a request for comments on incentivizing humanitarian technologies and licensing through the intellectual property system.

 The USPTO is trying to incentivize humanitarian technologies by creating a “fast-track ex parte reexamination voucher pilot program.”  The program will give priority to humanitarian technology patents shortening the review process to six months.  The USPTO also hopes the program will reduce costs for humanitarian technology patents.

 The proposed legal standard the PTO will use to define “humanitarian use” and “humanitarian research” are as follows;

 “‘‘Humanitarian use’’ would comprise four principles: subject matter, effectiveness, availability, and access. In general terms, subject matter evaluates whether the patented technology addresses a recognized humanitarian problem. Effectiveness judges whether the technology can be used or is being used to address that issue. Availability determines whether the technology is available to an affected impoverished population. Access evaluates whether the applicant has made significant efforts to increase access to the technology among such populations.”

 “‘‘Humanitarian research’’ would comprise two principles: significance and access. Significance requires that the patented technology make a significant contribution to research on a problem that predominantly affects an impoverished population, such as the tropical diseases identified by the FDA in its priority review voucher scheme. Access determines that the patented technology was made available to researchers on generous terms. “

 The PTO asks comments to focus on the twelve questions found in the Request for Comment.    

 To make a comment to the USPTO on this issue send an email to HumanitarianProgram@uspto.gov

BIO Commends Supreme Court for Expansive View of Patentability in Bilski Decision

Decision Recognizes ‘Machine or Transformation” Test May Not Apply To Biotech and Other New Technologies

Washington, D.C. (June 28, 2010) – The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) released the following statement in reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the lower court’s ruling in Bilski v. Kappos.

“In our amicus brief, BIO urged the Supreme Court to overturn the lower court’s rigid new test for determining whether a method or process is eligible for patenting. We are pleased that the Justices crafted a narrow opinion that does just that. The Court was clearly conscious of the potential negative and unforeseeable consequences of a broad and sweeping decision,” stated BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood.  “This ruling specifically states that the ‘machine-or-transformation test is not the sole test for patent eligibility’ and recognized that the lower court’s ruling could have created uncertainty in fields such as advanced diagnostic medicine techniques.”

“In the Diamond v. Chakrabarty decision in 1980, the Supreme Court defined patent-eligible subject matter in a flexible and inclusive way that has fostered the tremendous growth of biotechnology for the benefit of millions of patients, farmers, and other consumers around the world,” continued Greenwood.  “We are pleased that the Court made it clear in today’s decision that the patent system was designed to be broad and inclusive in order to promote innovation.  Strong intellectual property protection is critical to our nation’s economy and global competitiveness.”

In an amicus brief filed last year, BIO urged the Supreme Court to overturn the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit which created a new test under which a method or process is only patent-eligible if it is tied to a specific machine or if it transforms a particular article or substance to a different state or thing. This “machine-or-transformation” test was, until today, the only way to determine the patent-eligibility of a patent application before it is examined for novelty, inventiveness, and usefulness.

BIO’s amicus brief is available at http://bio.org/ip/amicus/documents/08-964tsacBiotechnologyIndustryOrganizationetal.pdf.

About BIO

BIO represents more than 1,200 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. BIO also produces the BIO International Convention, the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry, along with industry-leading investor and partnering meetings held around the world.