Engine looks forward to working with President Trump’s for nominee Andrei Iancu for the position of the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). As a non-profit advocacy and research organization that supports startups, we understand what an important position the Director of the USPTO is to protecting the innovation ecosystem.
The USPTO has made significant steps to improve patent quality in the past few years and we hope that the next Director will continue this important work. The American Invents Act created beneficial post-grant procedures, including inter partes review (IPR), that help weed out vague and invalid patents used by patent trolls to extort startups for settlements. As implemented by the USPTO, IPRs have been an invaluable tool for startups looking for a more efficient way to defend themselves against spurious patent infringement threats. Even more, IPR has helped inject balance into a patent system that desperately needs it. We believe that the IPR process must protect all stakeholders in the patent system and are encouraged that Mr. Iancu has participated in the IPR process both on the side of the patent owner and on the side of petitioners.
Startups are responsible for developing some of the most valuable intellectual property in the world but are also particularly vulnerable to frivolous patent litigation. Research shows that small businesses and startups bear the brunt of troll abuse and while patent litigation was down in 2016, the decline was mostly attributed to the largest defendants. Unfortunately, trolls are shifting focus towards more vulnerable targets who are unlikely to fight back. The USPTO is in a position to help these startups by ensuring that all patents issued are up to the highest quality standards. We hope the USPTO Director will continue to play a key role in the fight against low-quality patents.
Engine has seen firsthand how a balanced and high-quality intellectual property system is to the vitality of the startup economy. We look forward to working with Mr. Iancu should he be confirmed by the Senate.