With today’s vote to confirm Michelle Lee as Undersecretary of Commerce and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the Senate Judiciary Committee took another important step to promote the strength and effective functioning of America’s intellectual property system. This action follows the committee’s Feb. 12 vote to confirm Daniel Marti to serve as U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC). Microsoft thanks Chairman Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member Patrick Leahy and members of the committee for advancing these important nominations, and urges the full Senate to move quickly to confirm.
The USPTO Director and IPEC play critical roles in advancing the goals of our nation’s intellectual property system and ensuring its effective operation. Both positions have been vacant for too long. During Michelle Lee’s service as acting director, the USPTO has worked to improve the system for inventors by reducing the waiting time for patents and launching important new initiatives to improve patent quality. But after two years, the agency needs a confirmed director who can speak and act with the full authority of her office.
The IPEC position was created to ensure that the intellectual property enforcement policies and practices of the U.S. government are well coordinated, and that the U.S. stands as a leader among nations in maintaining policies that demonstrate respect for and commitment to the protection of intellectual property rights. The position must be filled to carry forward the important initiatives identified in the administration’s 2013 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement.
The past few years have been a time of significant change for patent law in the United States. The Supreme Court has taken up more patent cases than at any time in recent memory, issuing decisions on fundamentals like subject matter eligibility and altering patent litigation rules – in some cases aiding in deterring abusive tactics and in some cases creating new areas of ambiguity. In 2011, Congress passed comprehensive changes to patent law in the America Invents Act, and has now turned its attention to the important work of advancing legislation to go beyond the scope of Supreme Court rulings to curb abusive practices in patent litigation.
At a time when recent reforms are still being implemented and others are on the horizon, American innovators and creators – and our intellectual property system – need confirmed leaders to take on the challenges and opportunities that these changing times present. And we need leaders in place to confirm to our trading partners our ongoing commitment to an intellectual property system that provides the incentives for America’s global technology leadership and serves as an engine for job creation and growth.
Michelle Lee and Daniel Marti each possess years of experience in addressing cutting-edge intellectual property issues, protecting valuable IP assets and promoting a balanced IP system. They are the strong and qualified leaders their positions demand, and the Senate should act now to confirm them.