Issue 88 | June 20, 2003
New Calls for Patent Reform Outside the U.S.
 Just as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is reporting to Congress on the mixed results of implementing its " 21st Century Strategic Plan," new calls for patent reform are being raised outside of the U.S.   

In Japan, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the government's Strategic Council on Intellectual Property released an outline for reforming the judicial system, customs rules, and the educational system in connection with intellectual property matters.  The proposal reportedly includes a high court with judges and lawyers specializing in intellectual property matters for handling all intellectual property lawsuits.  An "international intellectual property transaction committee" would also be established to halt infringing imports, and the names of illegal importers would be released to companies that have fallen victim to their pirated products.  In addition, the outline proposes to abolish or revise Article 35 of the Patent Law with respect to  employee rights for inventions in light of a recent monetary award to a former employee of Olympus Optical Co. 

A system to train lawyers specializing in intellectual property litigation and placing more emphasis on intellectual property in judicial examinations was also proposed.  The Yomiuri Shimbun has previously supported similar proposals for judicial reform, including increasing the number of qualified legal professionals allowed to practice in Japan.  Currently, there is only one legal professional for every 6,300 persons in Japan, compared with one for every 290 persons in the United States, one for every 710 persons in the United Kingdom, one for every 740 persons in Germany, and one for every 1,640 persons in France. 

In the United Kingdom, the Patent Office recently completed a survey to find out what features would be acceptable if a grace period was introduced into the UK patent system.  The survey concluded that most of the respondents were content with the current system, but that several features should be included with any new a grace period.  For example, the grace period should occur before the start of the priority year and should not have any effect on the filing of further applications within that priority year.  Furthermore, the grace period should be no longer than six months in length, and only disclosures by the applicant must be excluded from invalidating a patent on lack of novelty.

In Europe, as reported in Issue 78 of this newsletter, the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market was expected to formulate a position on the proposed EU Software Directive on May 21.  However, due to controversy surrounding the current proposal, that item was postponed until the committee's last meeting on June 17. The draft legislation was ultimately approved 20 votes to 8.  However, a number of amendments were made to the original text. The amended draft Directive is now due for debate by the whole European Parliament at its plenary meeting later this month.

Nongovernmental organizations are also getting into the patent reform game.  The World Intellectual Property Organization is seeking comments on its recently published "Agenda for the Development of the International Patent System" and the World Health Organization has issued its own report on "Intellectual property Rights, Innovation and Public Health."

To discuss this topic further, please feel free to contact the author, Bill Heinze, at Thomas, Kayden, Horstemeyer & Risley in Atlanta, Georgia USA.

The information contained in this email is provided for informational purposes only and does not represent legal advice. Neither the APLF nor the author intends to create an attorney client relationship by providing this information to you through this message.