As noted in this alert by the law firm Fulbright & Jaworski, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has announced that it is rescinding controversial rules promulgated in 2007 that have been ensnarled in litigation since then. The rules sought to limit the number of patent claims per patent application, and the number of continuing applications that could be filed. As I noted in Radical Patent Reform Is Not on the Way, these changes are not radical, as the patent privileges lobby paints them. But the very fact that they were so vociferously opposed by the organized patent bar, such as the AIPLA, indicates that these changes would probably have been in the right direction. Basically, anything the AIPLA is against, the libertarian should be for.
Following the rule that each President is worse than the last and eventually makes you nostalgic for his predecessor, here we have a case where the Obama administration is fighting one of the few halting, tentative efforts of the Bush administration to actually improve matters. As a PTO press release stated, the current PTO Director “has signed a new Final Rule rescinding highly controversial regulations, proposed by the previous administration, that patent applicants felt unduly restricted their capacity to protect intellectual property.” As Fulbright’s alert notes, “The exact scope of the PTO’s procedural rulemaking authority, a highly contested issue in this dispute, remains unresolved. The rescission of these rules may prove to be a tactical decision in a quest for greater PTO rulemaking authority. Despite the PTO’s emphasis that these rules were proposed by the previous administration, the current administration, via Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, is actively lobbying for substantive rulemaking authority at the PTO.”