This week the world of corporate intellectual property (IP) converged in Chicago for the Annual Meeting of the Intellectual Property Owners (IPO) Association. A record 1150 IP lawyers and patent and trademark attorneys attended from the U.S., Europe, Asia, Canada, Latin America, Australia and Africa. See attached photo (from left to right): Ray Ricordati, Renata Righetti, Richard Beem, and Marco Conti, at the offices of Beem Patent Law Firm after the IPO meeting. Ms. Righetti and Mr. Conti are partners in the distinguished Bugnion intellectual property law firm, from Milan and Bologna, respectively. Mr. Ricordati is an associate of Mr. Beem.
At IPO, Chief Judge Sharon Prost of the Federal Circuit and IPO Executive Director Herb Wamsley delivered keynote addresses.
Chief Judge Prost presented on the State of the Federal Circuit, including the tsunami of patent appeals, especially from the new Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Patent cases now fill two-thirds of the Federal Circuit’s docket, up from one-third just a few years ago. Congress will not soon bestow any new seats for the Court of 12 active judges. Fortunately, a record six senior judges are helping with the caseload.
Executive Director Wamsley, on the verge of retirement, has done a terrific job in 30 years at the helm of IPO. He has constituted a Board comprising the Chief Intellectual Property Officers of the most prominent companies in the United States. If CEOs are the monarchs of the business world, it follows that general counsel and chief IP counsel are greater and lesser members of the royal families.
As Chief Judge Prost observed, intellectual property law is at the height of interest in all three branches of the U.S. Government and in corporate boardrooms.
The three-day IPO meeting featured presentations on recent Supreme Court cases, corporate IP management best practices, and patent litigation in the courts and the Patent Office.
For my money, the best presentation at IPO was on patent and copyright protection for software after Alice and Oracle, featuring the newest and most creative thinking from IBM and Oracle. Bottom line: Proprietary rights in software need to be protected under a combination of patent, copyright, trade secret, unfair competition, and contract law.
Trademarks and domain names continue to be of vital importance in U.S. and international business. Federal trademark registrations are keystones.
Much of the world’s IP activity is focused in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which renders decisions that often turn out to be the last word, as the Federal Circuit grants increasing levels of deference under its mounting caseload and the watchful eye of the Supreme Court.
Patent practice before the USPTO, in turn, requires a bachelor’s degree in engineering or science and demonstration of knowledge and proficiency in patent law and practice as shown by passing a difficult bar examination specific to the USPTO. Indeed, a trend in patent litigation today is the return of patent practice to registered patent attorneys, with key decisions rendered by technically skilled USPTO patent judges. Most cases never reach a jury, though it remains essential for patent advocates to be able to present cases in plain language with simple exhibits accessible to the layperson.
The Intellectual Property Offices of Europe, China, Japan and Korea, together with the USPTO, comprise the IP5, which collectively account for about 90% of new patent filings worldwide.
The key to success in U.S. and international IP matters often is a U.S. patent attorney with deep experience and a strong worldwide network. Many of the world’s best lawyers and patent attorneys prefer to practice independently in their respective countries rather than in a so-called global law firm.
Coming soon: Watch this site for my upcoming report on the World Congress of the International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (AIPPI) to be held in Rio de Janeiro starting on October 10, 2015.