The USPTO and other patent offices around the world are studying
the feasibility of the international harmonization of patent laws.
As part of this initiative, the USPTO is soliciting stakeholders
views on four key issues: (1) the grace period; (2) eighteen month
publication; (3) the treatment of conflicting patent applications;
and (4) prior user rights. As set forth in a recent Federal Register Notice, stakeholders can
provide their views by answering an on-line questionnaire and by
participating in a public hearing that will be held at the
USPTO's Alexandria, Virginia campus on March 21, 2013.
Former USPTO Director Kappos described international
harmonization as "the alignment of laws and procedures among
intellectual property systems to ensure consistency and clarity of
rights for the world's innovators." Kappos promoted
harmonization as a way to offer "consistent, cost-effective
avenues to obtain reliable patent rights in multiple
jurisdictions." He also saw harmonization as a solution to the
exponentially growing problem of unexamined patent applications,
and the key to true worksharing among patent offices.
The Tegernsee Group
The Federal Register Notice provides background
information on the evolution and status of efforts being made
towards international patent harmonization. The "Tegernsee
Group" refers to the group of patent offices represented at a
meeting in Tegernsee, Germany, in July of 2011 (Denmark, France,
Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the
European Patent Office). The Tegernsee Group has met several times
since, and continues to study the feasibility and implications of
harmonization, with a current focus on four key issues:
the grace period
eighteen month publication
the treatment of conflicting patent applications and
prior user rights
After their last meeting, the Tegernsee Group decided to solicit
stakeholder feedback on these issues.
The Tegernsee Group developed a questionnaire to solicit
stakeholder feedback, which can be found here. At 26 pages, the PDF version is a bit
intimidating, but the questions are straight-forward and probably
not too difficult to answer. For example, for each key issue, there
are questions regarding how frequently the respondent has been
affected by the issue (e.g., relied on the grace period or invoked
prior user rights). I can understand how it would be important to
know how these issues affect stakeholders in order to devise
workable compromises for harmonization.
The USPTO will "close" the questionnaire on February
The USPTO also will accept other written comments received by
February 28, 2013, but strongly encourages stakeholders to complete
The Public Hearing
The USPTO is holding a public hearing on international
harmonization on March 21, 2013, at its Alexandria, Virginia
campus, and plans to offer a simultaneous webcast. Stakeholders can
apply to present oral testimony in person at the hearing by
following the procedures set forth in the Federal Register Notice, which sets an
application deadline of February 28, 2013.
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The bill defines "low-wage employees" as hourly employees making less than $15 per hour or the applicable state or local minimum wage, whichever is greater, or salaried employees making $31,200 per year or less.