Uh-Oh! Just as we expected (and feared). Another big software patent strategist as PTO Director. This time, the former Google IP patent strategist, Michelle K Lee.
A founder and current board member of ChIPs (Chief IP Counsels), an organization dedicated to advancing the careers of women in patent-related fields.
Board Member of the “Asian Pacific Fund” dedicated to providing resources to the Asian community.
Manager of the Silicon Valley Branch of the PTO.
What does this all mean. It means “Money makes the world go around, world go around, world go around…In the most peculiar ways.”
Big software wants to kill the enforcement of software patents, with Google leading the charge. Michelle K. Lee was their advocate. Now the legislation is before Congress. The legislation will hurt independent inventors by making patent assertion next to impossible for those who are not blessed with the billions of dollars needed to launch software inventions. Who better to ram through the next BAD legislation than one of its chief proponents. Michelle K Lee. See where she stands in her own words http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.com/2009/03/patent-reform-needed-more-than-ever.html
Deja vu! When Big Software (aka IBM) wanted to ram through “patent reform” (first to file and a host of big business earmarks designed to weaken the patent system and tilt it further toward big business), Senator Patrick “IBM” Leahy nominated the patent strategist from IBM, David “IBM” Kappos to this same influential post. Why? To implement that dastardly legislation to put the screws to small inventors and make patents a big business bonanza not accessible to small inventors. The result was Kappos lobbying hard for patent reform with the promise that the PTO would get to keep its revenues. However, all the bad parts got through and the revenue part got limited by being subject to House Appropriations Committee oversight and yes, with sequestration and the need to look for money sources the promised end to fee diversion was set aside and diversion continues. Not to be sidetracked by ethical considerations, Kappos pushed on with the implementation starting with all the pro-big business aspects of patent reform, especially two big business specialties, both acronymed FTF, first Fast Track for Fatcats (big companies can pay to jump to the front of the line, underfunded little guys stay back and get screwed over) and First to File (big companies who have in-house patent attorneys, know the rules, and can file super fast will just be “constructively” deemed the real first inventor, even though they aren’t, rather than let the real inventor get the patent the way it used to be). So that big companies can better steal employee inventions, provisions were included to allow companies to file without having to even get the inventors’ signatures (that way if the employee objects, the employee is SOL). To raise the ante on enforcement so small guys can’t afford to enforce their patents, new burdensome reexamination and opposition proceedings were set up (to run up the costs of enforcement and delay recovery so inventors go broke if they try to assert a patent). But inventors are, by nature, inventive and they invented a way around this big business crap, and that was to aggregate their patents in one powerful entity that could go toe to toe in litigation with big business. So, big business set out on a publicity and lobbying campaign to call those aggregators “patent trolls”, “non-practicing entities”, “owners of bad patents”, “frivolous patentee”, “frivolous lawsuits”, “unfair litigation”, etc. Michelle K Lee, at Google, was a leading proponent of those labels and that strategy. Once the dastardly deed was done, well David “IBM” Kappos bailed before the inevitable bad fallout from patent reform hit and went to a lucrative law firm position. Was it the payoff for a bad deed well done? Small inventors (who have seen this revolving door game many times before) think they know the answer, big business will surely deny it.
So, round two, big business fights back with more money thrown at Congress to try to stop the patent aggregators, which truth be known is really to stop small inventors who have no other recourse due to prior patent “reform”. So who does the best White House money can buy and the best Congress money can buy put in now to head the PTO. Naturally, the leading proponent of anti-troll patent reform. So, now we will see the implementation of patent killing rules and laws to block this end run invented by small inventors to find some modicum of reward for their inventions that are being stolen by Google and other big software firms. Deja vu, round two.
One of the big complaints is that these patent-killing reforms will just result in sending to Asia the American jobs that might have been created were American inventors given a fair shake. I hope that appointing an Asian-American is just a coincidence, but one has to wonder if she will have the same sensitivity to the inventors in America as would other possible choices. She is, after all, a Board Member of the “Asian Pacific Fund” which has as its purpose “a need to increase the resources available to the Asian community.” We hope those resources do not include the inventions created by small American inventors and the ‘Asian community’ is the one that is a welcome part of the American community and not the one centered in Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo. Ms. Lee is from Silicon Valley, which is known as a hotbed of invention, so we can only hope here loyalties are with the startups and small inventors she represented occasionally at Fenwick & West rather than their big software clients like Google where she went before being pushed rapidly up the ladder at the PTO. I have serious doubts that she is being appointed for any other reason than to see to the implementation of anti-patent troll rules and regulations, but I wonder how strongly she will fight against jobflow to Asia. It is, I submit up to Ms. Lee to prove me and other skeptics to follow wrong. Until then, I am operating under the assumption that her motto will be a warning to small American inventors and patent aggregators “Whatcha gonna do when they come for you? Bad Boys, Bad Boys. Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?” Next move up to you Ms. Lee! From here in St. Louis in the “Show Me State”, I say show us where your loyalties lie! From the heartland of American, and the Gateway to the West, I say to you, I hope it is here in America, so it can remain the home of Yankee ingenuity! God Bless America, Keep it Strong, Resilient and Ever Creative. In the dreams of our inventors lie our nation’s hope for the future. Don’t let the dreams die! Michelle Lee, What Will You Be?
Bruce Burdick, Managing Attorney, The Burdick Law Firm, Alton, IL & St. Louis, MO
Owner, America Invents IP Blog
Licensed: IL, MO, TX & numerous state & Federal Courts
Registered Patent Attorney since 1974
Past President, Illinois Innovators & Inventors
Member, Inventors Association of St. Louis
Past Chairman, Midwest Inventors Conference 1999-2006
Member or Past Member, American Bar Assoc., Licensing Exec., American Intellectual Property Law Assoc., International Trademark Assoc.
Top IP Contributor 2012 & 2013, Avvo.com
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