I’ve commented here about the imperative to return to a patent system that incents and rewards innovation and discourages the speculators and opportunists who are using litigation leverage and bad patents to extract money from the productive elements of the economy. That’s why we urge the Senate to follow the House’s overwhelming, bipartisan vote to limit patent rent-seeking by these financiers. We also welcome today’s White House initiative to drive better patent quality from the get-go by making sure applications that don’t meet patentability requirements aren’t granted. I am pleased to announce that Cisco will participate.
I once worked for a giant company whose employees used to joke, “If only we knew what we know.” Well, nowhere is that saying more true than in the search for prior art to determine if a patent should be granted. To do the most effective job of reviewing new patent filings, the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) needs ready access to relevant prior art so that patents aren’t improperly approved just because our superb but chronically overworked patent examiners have no practical way of finding it. This is especially important in rapidly developing fields where important advances aren’t captured in patent filings or conventional publications.
To improve the quality of patents in networking technology, Cisco is today committing to assembling our own public product documentation, converting it to electronic form, and making it readily searchable by examiners. We hope that our peers will join in this effort and help greatly broaden the scope of searchable prior art in the information technology field. Patent prior art search is an ideal opportunity to put “crowdsourcing” to work.
Additionally, we will continue to electronically publish many invention submissions that are not internally approved to be patent filings so that these too can be used by examiners. Another important aspect of this effort: continuing to provide examiners access to senior Cisco technical talent in the form of training on current technology and the prior art in the networking field.
As the owner of over 10,000 US patents and a frequent target of assertions of bad patents, we have a responsibility to work to improve the system with the tools we have. And we will keep doing so. When our patent examiners can say, “We know what we know”, we’ll be one more step toward a patent system that meets the Founders’ goal of truly “promoting progress in science and useful arts.”