updated 02:35 am EDT, Thu July 12, 2012
Four satellite patent offices planned, one in silicon valley
Speaking at San Jose State University as part of a planned trip to Silicon Valley, acting US Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank said that a planned network of regional satellite patent offices coupled with the effects of new legislation should slow the recent rash of major tech company patent lawsuits. One of four planned patent offices will be based in the San Jose metro area. Locating an office in Silicon Valley is expected to help the patent office hire experts with appropriate skills to evaluate patent filings, leading to higher quality patents.
"Higher-quality patents means [fewer] legal challenges," Blank said. "Faster patents [also] often mean [fewer] legal challenges, because often times the longer it takes to get a patent the more other people are encroaching on the space, so speed and quality are two things I think this legislation and these new offices are going to help us achieve," Blank continued. Speaking with local officials, Blank praised Silicon Valley's historical culture of innovation, and said that the area was responsible for one out of 10 US patents since the rise of the technological region in the 1970s..
Blank's statements come a week after the judge who recently dismissed an Apple patent infringement case against Motorola, Richard Posner, questioned the need for software patents in an interview with Reuters. He argued that the smartphone industry is suffering from a "proliferation of patents," and that software patents may not be necessary -- since writing a program requires much less investment than what a pharmaceutical company, for instance, might put into developing a new drug."It's not clear that we really need patents in most industries," Posner says.
In response to a question about Judge Posner's remarks, Blank said that patents are "always an evolving process. People will continue to define what is and isn't patentable. But these new offices give us the ability to do higher-quality patents," which she which she reiterated would lead to fewer lawsuits.