The importance of US patent quality

From computing and electronics to biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, America is home to the world’s most cutting edge innovations. One of the reasons for this wealth of invention is the protection afforded by high quality patents. A patent system that continues to promote and protect our inventions is critical to our economic success and global competitiveness.

It’s for this reason that I’m speaking this week at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Patent Quality Summit. The Summit provides an opportunity for USPTO officials, inventors, and patent system stakeholders to come together to discuss patent quality, including six new proposals on which the USPTO has requested feedback.

ADVERTISEMENT
For 22 consecutive years, IBM has been the leading recipient of U.S. patents. Throughout this period, we have consistently advanced and supported efforts to enable robust patent examination. We see the value of high quality patents every time we leverage our patent portfolio to generate a return on our R&D or protect offerings such as our well known Watson cognitive computing system.

The strength of our patent system is a key reason why America has consistently led the world in innovation; and patent quality is a critical element in a well-functioning patent system. High quality patents contribute $5 trillion to the economy every year and support 40 million American jobs, particularly in IP-intensive industries, like software. High quality patents improve opportunities for collaboration by careful and complete explanation of the patented invention, and offer more confidence in protection to inventors as they bring products to market. Continued focus on high quality patents will be instrumental in reducing frivolous litigation.

A strong patent system, supported by quality patents, also boosts American competitiveness. The U.S. must set the standard for patent quality to ensure other countries both respect U.S. patents and seek to raise quality themselves. Maintaining high quality patents also helps U.S. companies to invest in innovation, enabling them to compete in the world marketplace.

With concern over the quality of patents raised in the patent reform and patent litigation discussion, it is imperative that the U.S. demonstrate its commitment to patent quality. The USPTO is doing just that with its current patent quality proposals. The proposals will seed brainstorming in important areas such as improving quality metrics, enhancing examiner/applicant communication, and harnessing innovation to enhance patent examination.

Robust patent examination improves the efficiency of the patent system by addressing issues early in the patent lifecycle. Early action to address poor quality applications avoids unnecessary design around or other defensive measures by businesses as they attempt to develop and commercialize products and services.

Amidst ongoing debate about the patent system we must not forget the critical role patents play in promoting and protecting the business of innovators. We commend the USPTO for its willingness to explore new ideas, evaluate the use of new technologies, and consider community feedback that can improve the quality of patents, strengthen our patent system, and ensure that it remains at the forefront of the global IP system.

Schecter is chief patent counsel, associate general counsel, and managing IP attorney at IBM. IBM is a member of the Partnership for American Innovation (PAI). The PAI believes protecting intellectual property is essential to economic growth, jobs, and America’s ability to compete in markets around the world.