Thanks to the leadership of US Patent and Trademark Director Andrei Iancu, a new era begins today in ensuring that US patents reflect real invention. Together with representatives from across American industry, we are proud to join Director Iancu and the MIT Media Lab to launch the new industry prior art archive at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I hope that Cisco’s efforts to spur creation of this archive will create a path to consensus solutions to the patent policy debates that have divided American industry for more than a decade.
Director Iancu, in his eight months at the PTO, has put a high priority on improving the reliability and certainty of patent rights. He has encouraged deployment of AI and machine learning to improve the search process. Industries of all kinds, from IT to automotive and pharmaceutical, care about patent quality too. We all want our patents to stand up in court and post-grant proceedings when we assert them. And we don’t want to waste time and money defending ourselves against patents that should have never been granted in the first place. The stakes are high: a properly granted patent incentivizes innovation from which our entire society can benefit by affording the inventor a period of monopoly profits. An improperly granted patent can stop entrepreneurs from bringing their own products to market, and raises prices to consumers, with no innovation benefits to offset those burdens.
Pharmaceutical and chemical companies, in particular, make large investments in reliance on enforceable patent rights and want patents to be difficult to challenge once issued. In the IT industry, plagued with assertions by shell entities who buy up patents discarded by others – we need the robust process created by the America Invents Act of 2011 to give the PTO a path to fix mistakes it made in the initial review. What to one industry seems to be a “patent death squad” seems to another to be the last best chance to protect against nothing more than a shake-down supported by litigation rules that protect the use of poor-quality patents to extract money from productive companies.
Today we find a common voice in supporting Director Iancu’s efforts to improve examination so that weak patents are never issued in the first place and challenges are unnecessary.
The story begins with the creation at Cisco, under the leadership of Dan Lang, our Vice President of Intellectual Property, of an online archive of our old paper documentation and materials that were once online but are no longer available. We uploaded 165,000 documents. We worked with the USPTO so that examiners could search using the same syntax they use in the patent office’s own databases. With a more complete picture of the technology that already exists, patent examiners are in a better position to reject new patent applications on what are in fact old or obvious ideas.
Now the MIT Media Lab has made our vision of an archiving platform open to different companies and industries into a reality. With the impetus of Director Iancu’s leadership on patent quality, we are thrilled to bring together companies from the pharmaceutical industry, automotive industry, as well as our own IT industry for the event celebrating this important progress.
This new archive built by the MIT Media Lab over the past few years has already achieved critical mass. Cisco and AT&T have already uploaded documents to the archive, and five other companies have already committed to join. Google has supplemented the archive by using its technology to automatically assign USPTO class codes to the documents that have been uploaded to further facilitate searching by examiners. But this is just the start. Director Iancu’s leadership and the enthusiastic response across industries point the way to a powerful tool for improving patent quality in a broad spectrum of technologies. As new search techniques based on AI become available, the archive will become even more effective.
We are happy to be doing our part to realize Director Iancu’s vision of reliable and certain patent rights and are thrilled with the leadership of MIT, and the response of the industry. We hope that today’s launch will be remembered as a step forward for the country’s patent system.