Enactment of Patent Reform Legislation to Trigger Immediate Changes

Yesterday, USPTO Director Kappos participated in a Q&A session with the public on the pending patent reform legislation and its anticipated impact on the USPTO.  A replay of the webcast may be found at Managing Intellectual Property here (free, but registration required).

Using a football analogy, Director Kappos explained that the current legislation was on the “one inch line,” and that he expected enactment in the next month or two. As to the current disparity between the House and Senate bills on fee diversion, Kappos explained that the USPTO could live with the House version of the bill as it was a step forward, but was hoping for further assurances from the Senate that funding would be allocated in full (similar to that made on the floor of the House).

The Director also explained that upon enactment, the agency would have access to the additional fees of the one track program (expedited patent application examination), and the 15% surcharge.  Based on this influx of funding, it was expected that current restrictions on operations could be lifted, such as examiner overtime.

As to plans for preparing for the new proposed post grant proceedings, the USPTO will be hiring…a lot.

In discussing the movement of inter partes patent reexamination away from the Central Reexamination Unit (CRU) to the new Patent Trial and Appeal Board, as well as the need for the Board to handle the new Post Grant Review proceeding, the Director explained that there would be a need to hire at least 100-150 new Administrative Patent Judges (APJs). Each IPR and PGR proceeding will demand a panel of three APJs. While the Office is permitted to phase in these new proceedings over a period of time (starting one year after enactment) it is expected that the staffing and rule drafting efforts will begin almost immediately.

The Director was also asked about the current state of patent reissue and whether or not the Office was planning on creating another special unit akin to the CRU to handle these proceedings. Director Kappos explained that although the creation of a special unit was originally contemplated, such was not feasible (evidently there was an issue with the patent examiner union). Instead, the Office is currently focused on improving patent reissue by creation of internal resources and processing improvements to cut down on the considerable pendency issues.

Finally, throughout the program the Director commented on a variety of other issues presented in the legislation (unrelated to post grant proceedings). For example, the current plans to open a satellite office in Detroit were described as being “put on ice” until funding issues are resolved.

I would encourage anyone with an interest in the legislation to listen to the webinar.