‘Tis the Season Part III: USPTO Transition

Today PK, along with the Center for Democracy and Technology, Knowledge Ecology International, the Public Patent Foundation and representatives of the library community met with some of the members of transition team for the US Patent and Trademark Office. PK Advisory Board member and Duke University Professor Arti Rai, International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) Executive Vice President for Global Legal Policy Shira Perlmutter and National Inventors Hall of Fame IP Counsel Joyce Ward were the team members who met with us.

Most of the discussion focused on the USPTO's role in International Copyright policymaking. We asked for 1) greater transparency (something we have not gotten in the ACTA negotiations; 2) more data-driven policymaking (as opposed to simply relying on and basing policy industry-generated studies about the cost of piracy, etc.); and most importantly, 3) that public interest groups and the tech companies with which we work be considered real stakeholders in copyright debates, and not merely policy pests that simply need to be tolerated.

The most interesting discussion for me was the question of why the PTO was involved in copyright policymaking at all. This was not the case until President Clinton's PTO head, Bruce Lehman, made copyright part of the agency's business. Perhaps PTO should get out of copyright policymaking, but if not, we argued that there needs to be a counterbalance; perhaps elsewhere in the Commerce Department (like in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration) or maybe in a separate "Office of Free Expression and Access to Knowledge."

We also spoke about the new IP Enforcement Coordinator (or IP "Czar") position and what his/her role should be. We favor that such person serve only in a coordination role, linking together the various agencies and departments that have IP enforcement powers. What we would not like to see is for that person to have the ability to influence or make broader copyright policy.

Finally, we had relatively brief discussions about counterfeiting and how the definition has grown to include infringement and sales of goods from other than the original source. And we discussed the operation of the patent office - including giving patent examiners more time to make intelligent decisions on patent applications, and making PTO records accessible to the public.

We submitted this briefing paper setting out our principles for a balanced copyright policy.

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