Davis: Improve patent process?

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) asked the director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today if the controversy over who controls the patents for Research in Motion (RIM) BlackBerry technology indicates that USPTO needs to reform how it examines patent applications, according to a press release.

“In today’s fast-moving world, America’s economy and our ability to compete in a global marketplace are dependent on an efficient and competent system to bring new technological developments to the consumer market,” Davis said in a press release. He is chairman of the House Government Reform Committee.

In a letter to USPTO Director Jon Dudas, Davis questioned whether the agency needs to refine the patent process. Davis added that he is ready to help improve the process.

“If adequate resources were utilized to determine the initial validity of the patents, this controversy could have been avoided,” he wrote in the letter. “Additionally, if RIM’s re-examination requests had been acted upon more expeditiously, the current uncertainty could have been resolved long before it threatened critical service to the government and consumers.”

Two companies — RIM and NTP — each argue that they hold the original patents on the BlackBerry’s wireless e-mail technology. NTP has sued RIM, and RIM has asked USPTO to re-evaluate the credibility of NTP’s claims.

The possibility of an injunction against RIM, forcing the company to shut down its U.S. service, concerns the public and private sectors. Some analysts say they believe a shutdown is unlikely — only a 10 percent chance in Gartner Research’s estimation. Forrester Research, a market research firm, is even more confident that a shutdown won’t happen, giving the possibility only a 2 percent chance.

“The current patent controversy involving BlackBerry service is but one signal that our economy and ability to compete in a global economy are dependent on an efficient and competent system,” Davis wrote. “A vital component of that system is a well-funded and efficient Patent and Trademark Office.”

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