FTC wants to de-muck the intellectual property quagmire

What do you get when you mix the government, the court system, company lawyers and Joe consumer? A serious mess that would send most people screaming into the night.  But the Federal Trade Commission is no such entity.  It wants to straighten Intellectual Property (IP) out and today said it will hold a series of hearings - the first in Washington, DC on Dec. 5 - it will use to examine IP law and the myriad issues surrounding it. Interested bigwigs from the tech industry, including Cisco, Yahoo and the Computer & Communications Industry Association are expected to testify along with professors, lawyers  and other industry players.

The patent system has experienced significant change and more changes are under consideration, the FTC said

"The courts and patentees are exploring the full implications of Supreme Court and Federal Circuit decisions on injunctive relief, patentability, and licensing issues. Congress has considered sweeping legislative patent reform, and new debates on the appropriate methods for calculating infringement damages have engaged the patent community. New business models for buying, selling and licensing patents have emerged and evolved since 2003. In addition, there is new learning regarding the operation of the patent system and its contribution to innovation and competition.

And the understatement of the day: The cumulative impact of these changes and proposed changes are poorly understood, the FTC  said.

The FTC has tried to clear things up before.  The last time in 2002/2003 when it held 24 days of hearings that involved more than 300 panelists, including representatives from large and small business firms; the independent inventor community; patent and antitrust organizations; and the academic community in economics and antitrust and patent law. In addition, the FTC said it received about 100 written submissions. Many of the business representatives were from technology-intensive industries such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, computer hardware and software, and the Internet. The final results were contained in a 207-page report that has guided the agency's ruling on IP since.

According to the FTC, the hearing will consist of three panels. One that looks at the operation of emerging business models, aspects of the patent system that support those models, and industry responses. The discussion also will explore the implications these developing business models have for patent valuation and licensing. A second will examine recent and proposed changes in remedies law, including their impact on innovation and consumers, and their use of economic analysis in determining remedies. The third will look at legal doctrines that affect the value and licensing of patents, such as the recent Supreme Court cases on obviousness and other important rulings make the scope and enforcement of patents unpredictable, the FTC stated.  

The FTC wants your comments too.  Such comments should be submitted here and must be received by February 5, 2009, and should refer to "Evolving IP Marketplace - P093900."

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