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FTC conference on patent reform starts today

Patent thickets need cutting
Thu Apr 15 2004, 15:03
A CONFERENCE chaired by the Federal Trade Commission, the National Academy of Sciences and the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology kicks off in California in a few hours time.

The idea is reform the patent system without stopping innovation, but the industry is along there in the shape of giants Intel, Microsoft, Symantec and others, and we're sure they'll try to pursue their own agenda.

There will also be representatives from the European Patent Office and the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Luckily, they are counterbalanced by legal organisations and academics.

The agenda for the workshop is here, and there's a very lengthy discussion document about proposed reform on the FTC site, here.

The FTC document proposes a number of changes to the current system including a new admin procedure to challenge a patent's validity without having to go to law, allowing courts to find patents invalid on the preponderance of evidence rather than clear and convincing evidence, and the limiting of awards of "treble" damages.

It's pretty clear that for many large companies, patent actions have become a wing of marketing. Kicking off big patent cases can tie a smaller competitor up for years as the painful battle continues through the courts. Let's hope sanity prevails. But don't hold your breath for that. µ


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