On March 30th, MassTLC President & CEO, Tom Hopcroft, and EMC SVP and Deputy General Counsel, Krish Gupta, hosted a dinner for local technology company CEOs/Founders with Michelle K. Lee, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and the first female Director of the Unites States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
The Massachusetts tech leaders included:
- Mohamad Ali, President & CEO, Carbonite
- Peter Bauer, CEO, Cofounder & Chairman, Mimecast
- Jim Corrigan, President & CEO, ERT
- Steve Kaufer, President & CEO, TripAdvisor
- Jack Little, President & Co-Founder, MathWorks
- Daniel Theobald, Co-Founder & CTO, Vecna Technologies
Other attendees included: Dana Colarulli, Director, Office of Governmental Affairs, USPTO; Bridget Petruczok, Deputy Chief of Staff, USPTO; Jill Shapiro, Senior Director and Assistant General Counsel, EMC; and Ruth Morris, Director of Member Relations, MassTLC.
While the issue of dealing with abusive lawsuits was of great interest to all of the attendees, the conversation covered a wide range of issue, including the USPTO’s focus on the issuance of high quality patents, the Inter Partes Review (IPR) process for challenging patents, differences between U.S. and foreign IP laws, and China’s growing focus on IP protection.
Director Lee expressed the firm belief that the U.S. system of intellectual property (IP) protection was both necessary and valuable in promoting innovation. Striking the correct balance between protecting IP while curtailing abusive patent litigation is important for innovation. Several existing and potential mechanisms are in place to achieve this balance:
- Issuance of high quality patents
- Use of IPR process at the USPTO to weed out invalid patents
- Legislation pending in Congress to change venue selection provisions so plaintiffs have less ability to shop cases into notoriously pro‑litigant jurisdictions
- Efforts to convince Congress to adopt the shifting of legal costs so that the losing party has to absorb them when their conduct so merits—this creates risk for plaintiffs in bringing frivolous lawsuit
- Filing of amicus briefs in court cases involving important issues, such as litigation abuses, especially any that reach the Supreme Court
The Director also expressed her strong interest in working with local tech leaders and the broader innovation community, including incubators, accelerators and universities. She also recommended that tech leaders voice their issues, concerns and interests to both the USPTO and Congressional representatives to help drive action in the regulatory and legislative arenas.
The evening ended with a call to action among tech leaders to educate the Massachusetts Congressional delegation on IP protection issues and to collectively support court cases by signing on to amicus briefs that can help curb abusive patent lawsuits. MassTLC member CEOs interested in joining these efforts should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.