Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Elections looms closer and the USPTO is doomed

It doesn't matter who gets elected as president, the major problems at the Patent Office (IT management, labor relations management, quality control) will continue to get worse. The problem with McCain and Obama is that they don't have much experience or knowledge in technology, and neither do their VPs, and neither do many of their economic advisors (just as Carly wrecked HP). McCain most likely will continue the Bush legacy of tolerating incompetent management and using the PTO as a political tool, while Obama (distracted with other things) will allow Leahy to sell the PTO to the highest bidder (and Obama has too many Lemley/Moore-like academics advising him). In the end, neither candidate really cares about reinvigorating American's economy (with all their campaign trail bickering about silly and irrelevant issues - I mean, this country had to waste two days of its life watching grown(?) men argue about lipstick on a pig [which is animal abuse]). This campaign is basically about who is least unqualified - real encouraging, huh? To understand my skepticism, consider my comments on some comments Hal Wegner of Foley and Lardner recently made: "Professor Arti K. Rai, a leading patent spokesperson for her fellow Harvard classmate Barrack Obama, has argued for a need for change at the Federal Circuit, and particularly for the elevation of trial judges to the bench. She has also argued for the appointment of an Under Secretary knowledgeable about the patent system." Interesting, but why not appoint a patent practitioner to the CAFC? For example, one of the biggest crimes against patent applicants is the CAFC repeatedly ruling that patent specifications must be as long as possible, with endless patent claims to cover every possible infringement. "Don't specify it - can't claim it. Don't claim it - can't assert it." The crime? The CAFC creates this policy while the PTO is trying to create the policy of having patent specifications as short as possible, with as few claims as possible, so they can mismanagement their way out of their mismanaged pendency problem. The two policies together are insane, and cause great uncertainty in the minds of patent applicants as to how to invest their patenting dollars. "President McCain is Pledged to Spend Money on the PTO to Meet its Objectives: A surrogate for Senator McCain pooh poohed the criticism of the PTO leadership by noting that this criticism applied to previous administrations as well." Sure, previous PTO administrations were criticizable (Bruce Lehman being the second worst PTO Director in decades [such a ranking completely ignores the non-entity resume-stuffer Rogan].) But the last six years under legislative aide Dudas - the lies, the hostility, the failed policy initiatives - has severely damaged PTO operational capabilities. Such pooh poohing completely ignores two massive GAO studies documenting multiple automation and labor management problems at the PTO. Anyone who pooh poohs problems with PTO management has a pooh pooh head. Both candidates must pledge, at a minimum, NO MORE LEGISLATIVE AIDES AS PTO DIRECTOR. "Per his surrogates, Senator McCain is committed to spending as much money as needed for the PTO to achieve its goals." McCain's commitment is an insult to inventors and the public, because without a competent and professional management at the PTO, "spending as much money as possible" is a recipe for worsening conditions at the PTO. The PTO is suffering massive engineering management problems, which have to be addressed first before any other reform (most of which depend on the existence of a competent management). Wall Street, which can spend "as much money as possible" is collapsing as we speak. Why? Massive management problems in financial institutions. As have two large government corporations which can and have "spent as much money as possible" - Fannie and Freddie (though they spent too much of their money bribing politicians). Throw tons of money at incompetent PTO management - a sure guarantee of the similar collapse of the PTO. "Federal Circuit Defended: In marked contrast to Professor Rai's criticisms of the Federal Circuit, Edward Reines on behalf of Senator McCain staunchly defended the current composition of the Federal Circuit bench." Again, Edward Reines belongs to that part of the patent bar which holds the public in contempt in the sense that the concerns of the public (either inventors seeking patents, or the public who benefits from patents) are irrelevant. Reines believes in a sort of imperial CAFC, kowtowed to by lawyers, where the CAFC (and the Supreme Court) keep on issuing decisions that drive up the costs of patent prosecution, and that reinforces a stare decisis based on vagueness and contradiction of science and engineering. That's all fine to Reines - doesn't affect him or his clients. Given some of the nonsense science in CAFC oral questions and written decisions in cases like Nuijten, Microsoft/ATT, Bilski, Comiskey - yes, the CAFC needs some tuning of its competence in handling science and engineering issues (such as allowing a few scientists and engineers as clerks). "Chief Judge weighs in at Harvard with his own observations: As part of the previously referenced Harvard appearance last week, the Chief Judge remarked: 'When, I ask, did we ever before see patent policy discussed publicly by presidential campaign advisors?' ..." Well, Judge Michel, both candidates and their supporters keep on endlessly chattering the mantra of "We need new technologies to lead the economy forward", without realizing that a key component in that process is the identification and protection of the best new technologies with patents. One of the worst effects of the low quality of issued patents is that it makes it harder for the investing public to quickly identify new inventions worthy of financial investment. A completely mismanaged patent office thus weakens the nation's economy, and thus the nation's national security. Too bad the CAFC doesn't give that much of damn about incompetent PTO management. ... 'Next, we may see potential Federal Circuit nominees being touted or trashed in the media in advance of any vacancies.'" Well Judge Michel, given some of the problems your colleagues have in understanding the basics of science and engineering, I think you should be less contemptuous about scrutiny being applied to CAFC candidates. Indeed Judge Michel, how often do CAFC judges talk, not to lawyers, but to scientists and engineers? For that matter, how often do the CAFC judges talk to patent applicants and inventors, who are extremely affected by CAFC decisions? I doubt very often, which is irresponsible given the increasing role science and engineering is playing in CAFC decisions (such as anything to do with 35 USC 101 and 103). Any CAFC judge who does not believe that propagating signals are physical and useful needs to be trashed in the media. Shanna Winters; retired chemical executive -- Candidates to be Dudas' Successor: This writer is unaware of any candidates openly seeking the position of Under Secretary other than Shanna Winters. There has so far been no public discussion concerning her suitability for the position, and no comment released from Professor Rai or any other member of the Obama campaign. Hal wrote this paragraph to piss me off :-) Fine, Hal, here is some public discussion on Shanana Winters - she is another professionally unqualified legislative aide whose appointment as PTO Director or Deputy Director will be a violation of the law. For the two biggest problems at the PTO, well documented in lengthy GAO reports - that of examiner management and information systems management - Shanana Winters has no experience or competence whatsoever. Additionally, anyone remember hearing her speak anywhere in the last ten years outside of the Beltway, or read anything non-trivial about patent law written by her? NO NO NO. Is she urging the Congressmen she works for to investigate reports that PTO SPEs are ordering examiners to reject everything? NO NO NO. I can (and will) take the Peterlint complaint and pretty much just swap names to have a complaint in the ready (even better, this time around we don't have to argue about standing because the judge gave it to us under the APA in the Peterlint lawsuit). My colleagues in the lawsuit and I have committed to refiling a lawsuit against any legislative aide so appointed, and this time around I EXPECT more co-defendants and more financial support. My goal is to raise at least $50,000 to fight any such appointments. Inventors, examiners and the public deserve, nay are owed, competent PTO management. A former President of the intellectual property arm of a major Midwestern chemical company, recently retired, has been mentioned as a possible successor on the Republican side. Several other names on both sides have been privately circulated and are worthy of consideration. As long as they are not legislative aides. Myself, I prefer someone with a lot of experience in IT management as the next PTO director, but sadly, anyone with the competence makes ten times what the PTO salary is. The innovation America needs to regrow the country is not going to come out of mismanaged companies begging Congress for loans (the auto industry, much of the financial industry), or big companies who can buy policy (your Microsofts, energy companies, the Gramm family's Enrons and UBSes) to compensate for the lack of much real innovation, etc. It is going to come from the smaller, nimbler, innovative companies and start-ups, who right now are getting screwed big time by the worsening conditions at the Patent Office with longer pendencies and expensive idiotic Office Actions. Right now, neither candidate is saying anything that is good for such people. Too busy telling lies.