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How President Trump will affect the patent industry - part 2

Though changes forced by the administration do not appear to be on the horizon, that doesn’t mean that some changes aren’t wanted at the USPTO. These include more user-friendly processes for informational searches and legal defence against infringement. This is a series of posts on this topic, read part 1 here.

INNOVATION & IMPROVEMENT IN SEARCH

A variety of search interfaces are available, but there really isn’t one designed with the inexperienced in mind. One move that could rapidly introduce innovation in this area would be to make a broader range of public APIs (application programming interface) available for the USPTO website. An API basically provides ready-made functions to programmers to make it easier to develop tools for the system, in this case search and retrieval tools. A handful of APIs have been made available thus far as part of the Open Data Portal project, but functionality is still quite limited.

For example, when performing a manual search at the website, you currently have to read each patent individually — the availability of a relevant public API could incentivize a developer to quickly create a means of downloading a complete set of search results. This is also true of searching applications that are currently being examined. You can do this for free using ReedTech’s Public PAIR, but you again face the restriction of accessing only one individual application at a time by way of its patent number. And if you’re looking for information on changes to trademark registrations, you can again access this information for free through ReedTech’s Trademark Daily XML Files sets, but this consists of individual zipped archive files each containing a number of different trademarks. Here at KISSPatent we found these XML files to be so poorly structured and hard to work with (using conventional XML parsing tools like BeautifulSoup or the LXML utilities of Python) that we actually created our own tools for handling them from scratch!

Director Lee spoke about releasing public APIs in early 2016, but it was in passing during the course of general remarks about innovation during a speech at MIT. We haven’t really heard any further news or have any idea of a timetable for future developments since the Open Data Portal launched. To speculate a bit, there are indicators from the current administration that do not give one much cause for hope for further releases or improvement to existing Open Data Portal tools any time in the immediate future. The “Obama Tech Surge” created the United States Digital Service, which has become absolutely critical to the tech functionality of government services and innovation in this area. This group remains tentatively in place under the new administration, but with a president who refers to tech as “the cyber” and does not seem to have the same grasp of its importance that his predecessor did, and who is free to pull the plug on the program at any time. Even if the program continues uninterrupted, it is suffering from a general brain drain as developers are increasingly feeling the administration will be too difficult to work with or too much of a compromise to their personal values.

 
 
 
 

LEGAL REFORM

In January, the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) addressed a letter to Trump requesting litigation reform and an emphasis on clarifying software patent terms in particular, issues that would need to go before Congress. As we noted in the previous post in this series, however, the administration has yet to show any kind of interest in the issue of patent reform. Pair this with the ongoing emphasis on budget cuts and the established hostility of key members of the cabinet toward patent reform, it is not realistic to expect the administration will spend its dwindling political capital in this arena.

The administration may yet make moves that will have an impact on patent holders in the long run, however. The Trump administration will be facing roughly 125 vacancies that are either open or pending in the federal court system this year. Of course, the biggest of these is the current vacancy on the Supreme Court, for which Neil Gorsuch has been nominated. Gorsuch doesn’t have much of a history in direct rulings on intellectual property issues, but generally speaking is in line with the administration’s anti-regulatory perspective. The decisions of these justices will be critical to the ability of patent holders to defend their intellectual property in court and pursue action against infringers. 

Read the part 3 article on this subject here.

Dvorah Graeser