Apr 28, 2022 - Technology

Google asks new Patent Office director for systemic change

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) seal is displayed outside the headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., on Friday, April 4, 2014.
Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Google sees an opportunity for reform in the U.S. patent system, through the office's new, Silicon Valley-bred leader.

Driving the news: Kathi Vidal, an attorney who has represented major technology companies, was confirmed as director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) earlier this month.

  • Vidal's tenure at the USPTO was preceded by former President Donald Trump's pick, Andrei Iancu, who was viewed as more friendly to patent owners.
  • Vidal will also have more power than her predecessor to review decisions made by USPTO's patent review board thanks to a Supreme Court decision in 2021.

What they're saying: Google's general counsel, Halimah DeLaine Prado, told Axios the company is "asking for change."

  • "We've moved from sort of a culture of innovation... to a culture of litigation, And that is actually the primary reason why we want change in the patent system," she said.
  • "Patents are the foundation of services like Search and Maps," she said. "When we get sued for patent infringement, that impacts our ability to innovate and in turn provide something for others."

Details: In a blog post, DeLaine Prado lays out what Google would like to see for patents going forward.

  • It calls for more resources for more patent reviewers at the USPTO, an end to plaintiffs seeking a friendly court for patent litigation, and boosting an internal process for invalidating patents found to be low-quality.

The big picture: Certain industries pay close attention to who gets chosen to lead the patent office, and their approach on how patents should be rewarded and kept in the U.S.

  • The New York Times editorial board recently called for major reform to the U.S. patent system: "It [has] devolved into a backwater office that large corporations game, politicians ignore and average citizens are wholly excluded from."
  • "Not only is legal trickery rewarded and the public’s interest overlooked, but also innovation — the very thing that patents were meant to foster — is undermined."
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