1208885597_4795ass=”alignleft size-full wp-image-1166″ title=”1208885597_4795″ src=”https://www.patentspostgrant.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/1208885597_4795.jpg” alt=”1208885597_4795″ width=”274″ height=”173″ />With the Obama administration seemingly reigning in their health care reform ambitions, it may be that the never ending saga of Patent Reform may once again be percolating in Washington D.C.  President Obama’s recent comments on the value of a strong patent system and outdated USPTO practices, and increased USPTO budget seem to evidence a refocused agenda.  On the heels of the President’s comments, last Tuesday, a group of bipartisan House members issued a letter to the House leadership opposing the reform efforts, labeling the earlier bill passed by the 110th Congress as “misguided.”

The letter from representatives Don Manzullo (R-IL), Mike Michaud (D-ME), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), spells out their concern as being grounded in “the importance of protecting U.S. Intellectual Property standards as a way to help U.S. businesses and create jobs.”  The authors assail the previous legislative efforts as “the Patent Reform Act of 2007 would not have improved the quality of patents or reduced the cost of patent litigation.  Instead, it would have increased uncertainty among patent holders; reduced patent value; reduced investment in research and development; and, therefore, further hindered the development of U.S. manufacturing.”

The authors specifically call out the post grant features and proposed modifications to inter partes reexamination, characterizing these proposals as :

A post-grant review process and inter partes reexamination changes seem wholly unnecessary, given they will not reduce patent litigation and that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) already has a reexamination process.  In addition, these changes are likely to lead to increased strategic patenting by big companies and allow foreign competitors to easily and cheaply challenge U.S. patents.  Any patent reform bill that contains these provisions will be damaging to U.S. innovation and manufacturing.

While an expanded use of reexamination and/or a cost effective post grant opposition system are embraced by those facing intellectual property barriers to market participation, industries that rely on these high cost barriers to recoup research investment, such as the pharmaceutical industry, are not so enthusiastic.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel for some type of reform legislation?– perhaps.   It is clear that changes purporting to strengthen U.S. innovation have political value in a down economy.  However, with high power lobbyists dug in on both sides, including the pharmaceutical industry and software industry on opposite sides of the post grant debate, it seems increasingly unlikely that the ultimate legislation will bring about true reform.