PublishedNovember 16, 2012

Patent Progress at Patent Prom

Today is the Santa Clara Law High Tech Law Institute  “Solutions to the Software Patent Problem” Conference.  (#HTLI is actually trending on Twitter!)  Josh has been live-tweeting it on @PatentProgress, and Dan on @DisCo_Project.  A great Who’s-Who of patent law and policy is in attendance—it’s even been nicknamed #patentprom—and while the goal of coming up with solutions is of course ambitious, I have no doubt that these are the experts that can and should be doing so.

One piece of breaking news from Patent Prom:  According to Eric Goldman, Michelle Lee has been named the director of the USPTO’s new Silicon Valley office.  ArsTechnica has some more information on her impressive background and how she’s “been ‘in the trenches’ fighting patent trolls.”

But it’s not just the specialized crowd at HTLI that’s been talking about software patent problems.  Coincidentally, Nick Bilton from the New York Times happened to post a blog post today that started off:  “If you want to know just how broken the patent system is…”  (And of course, this site, Patent Progress, just launched two days ago, pointing out systemic problems with the patent system.)

Bilton’s post addressed an Apple design patent that we will analyze in more detail next week.  Bilton also made some policy arguments that are important.  He pointed out several other “seemingly obvious” patents that have been granted to Apple recently.  He then stated that Apple was granted 38(!) design and utility patents just this week.  He finished the article with a mention of Apple’s smartphone litigation, linking the seemingly innocuous phrase “filed multiple suits” to the article: “The Patent, Used as a Sword,” with its URL ending in “patent-wars-among-tech-giants-can-stifle-competition.”  That almost-5000-word article was critical of the proliferation of software patents and the resultant explosion in often-anticompetitive patent litigation.

These flaws in the patent system are exactly why we started Patent Progress.  It is important that these issues are on so many people’s minds.

Ali Sternburg


Ali Sternburg is Vice President, Information Policy at the Computer & Communications Industry Association, where she focuses on intermediary liability, copyright, and other areas of intellectual property. Ali joined CCIA during law school in 2011, and previously served as Senior Policy Counsel, Policy Counsel, and Legal Fellow. She is also an Inaugural Fellow at the Internet Law & Policy Foundry.

She received her J.D. in 2012 from American University Washington College of Law, where she was a Student Attorney in the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic, President of the Intellectual Property Law Society, Senior Symposium Chair and Senior Marketing Manager for the Intellectual Property Brief, and a Dean’s Fellow at the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property.

She graduated from Harvard College in 2009 where she studied Government and Music, wrote her senior honors thesis on “Theoretical and Legal Views on U.S. Government Involvement in Musical Creativity Online,” and interned at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

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