With all that is going on in world events and a pandemic that has raged on for over a year, it’s hard to focus on intellectual property as an important topic to discuss. But we must because innovation has carried on and patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets are still valuable assets that have to be pursued and managed. Inventions are intricately linked to everyday communications on computers and the Internet, by wireless devices, for energy production and management (e.g., battery technologies, light technologies), in economics and finance (cryptocurrency), privacy (encryption), and for medical advancements (vaccines, genomics, robotics, nanodevices). The very way information is collected, analyzed, and harnessed is forever changed by the use of big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. These technologies are evolving rapidly every day, pandemic or not.
What are we doing about this? Patent law has been taking a back seat to more pressing things in today’s world like battles for bodily autonomy, the environment, free speech, human rights, and the mediation of rights in a pandemic. Scientific and unscientific debates rage over masking, vaccines, and their impact on work and school. It seems that the amount of information and disinformation is staggering, and technology will be needed again to make sense of it all, control it, and leverage it.
A new year is coming. We have a new U.S. Patent Office Director. There’s an opportunity to make improvements we haven’t had reason to address or even discuss before. Even the way we work has changed with the remote workplace gaining popularity and old institutions opting for new ways to conduct business, law, and health care.
We need to revisit things in patent law, like subject matter eligibility, harnessing the sea of information available to patent stakeholders, the role of the PTAB, and ways to achieve overall higher quality patents and trademarks.
I thought 2021 was going to be better than 2020. Sadly, for too many of us, it wasn’t. So we are counting on science, optimism, and the human spirit to bring us back on track in 2022.