Creative expression is a unique feature of what it means to be human and government recognizes the value that expression delivers to society through intellectual property law. Obtaining a copyright from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is clear recognition of a work's originality and that the holder has the right to derive the monetary benefit from that work.
If anything in patent law triggers a love-hate reaction it is likely the processes related to inter partes review (IPR).
Do you know who Walter Hagen is? He was a professional golfer prominent in the first half of the last century. He was so good that he ranks third in the world for the number of men's major championship wins. Jack Nicklaus is first. Tiger Woods is second. That's ironic because Hagen is also the guy credited with saying, "No one remembers who came in second."
People, being people, have disagreements. Relationships of all kinds get put at risk if disputing parties let the issue fester. Within the legal context, the traditional approach to this dilemma has been to litigate. Historically, the process involves bringing the dispute into the open. Negotiations follow, pressed by the knowledge that unresolved issues could wind up in court.
In the salad days of piracy, the activity was very face to face. One craft, usually small and light, would outmaneuver a cargo-laden bigger vessel on the high seas and snatch the goods. Maybe with some bloodshed.
A traditional view within patent law is that a patent granted for an invention or idea extends infringement protection only within the bounds of the country that issued the license. So, if you obtain a patent from the U.S. government, the law limits recovery for infringement damages to market losses within the U.S.
"You've come a long way, baby." That was the slogan Phillip Morris used to market Virginia Slims, the first cigarette brand marketed specifically to women. Like any legitimate intellectual property, that phrase is trademarked. But another event this week in Washington would seem to deserve some recognition with the phrase. On June 19, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued the country's 10 millionth patent.
Patent law has a reputation as being a rather muted area of practice. Those dedicated to it know that isn't true. It does have its quiet moments and the amount of detail to attention and paperwork it requires can be off-putting to some. But managing patents, trademarks and copyright processes is how new ideas begin to create value and that fosters innovation. There's nothing dull about that.
Inter partes review is safe and sound. We reported on this development in our last post. In two recent decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court declared IPR constitutional on one hand. On the other hand, it took the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to task being too arbitrary in the way it sometimes chose to exercise the IPR power it wields.
It's sometimes hard to know who is the winner and who is the loser in a legal dispute. When the ball in play happens to be patent law, it can make filling in the win-loss columns even harder. That may be the case with two recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.