Patent Reform by Executive Action: Part Two

President Obama has signed a series of executive actions to implement modest reforms in the U.S. patent system and to protect businesses from abusive patent litigation. Meanwhile, Congress continues to work on broad reforms.

Our previous post detailed recent progress on five executive actions from last year. Now, we will look at three executive actions that have just been announced.

Crowdsourcing prior art: The process of determining whether an invention is novel depends on finding relevant prior art. But many times, prior art can be quite difficult to find. For this reason, the USPTO will evaluate ways to refine its third-party submission program, explore other ways for the public to submit prior art, and update the guidance it gives examiners so that they may more effectively use crowdsourced prior art.

Improving technical training: In order to evaluate patent applications effectively, patent examiners must understand the state of the art in highly technical fields. The USPTO will expand its Patent Examiner Technical Training Program to help them keep up. Soon, it will be easier for experts from industry and academia to provide training to examiners, and the Obama administration is calling on volunteers to assist in the effort.

Pro bono and pro se assistance: Small businesses and independent inventors sometimes lack the resources to hire legal representation when prosecuting patents. The USPTO plans to provide educational resources to pro se (self-representing) applicants. And a new, full-time Pro Bono Coordinator will work to expand the AIA Pro Bono Advisory Council – created under the America Invents Act – to cover all 50 states.

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