AUTM Briefings – a flavour of AUTM 2015 Central Region Meeting

Our very own Maura O’Connell attended the recent AUTM 2015 Central Region Meeting, which took place in Nashville, Tennessee. In the below feature, Maura details the various happenings of the US conference, giving an inside perspective on the IP issues discussed.

The attendees at AUTM included US technology transfer managers and US patent attorneys; the talk was of the differences in litigation practices in the US and Europe. So what messages can our Irish and European clients take from this?

To my mind, there were two themes at AUTM.

The first was a lack of support for the attempts that are underway to tackle US abusive patent litigation. In Europe, this is regulated by making groundless threats actionable by any person “aggrieved” by the threat. In the US, global companies such as Google, Amazon and Adobe are members of a group known as United for Patent Reform, that was formed in January 2015 with the aim of calling for patent reform to address the alleged problem of ‘patent trolls’. The group had urged US law makers to ensure that a bill aimed at tackling abusive patent litigation filed by non-practising entities – H.R. 9, the Innovation Act  was passed swiftly. While the bill had a lot of support and was expected to be put to a vote in July, a groundswell of opposition has since emerged in the House of Representatives that suggests the bill would weaken the patent system for all and not just its target – the oft-demonised ‘patent troll’. There is a view that the bill compromises the rights of all legitimate inventors but fails to address the use of deceptive demand letters, for example. The opposition from within the House of Representatives echoes the sentiments of universities, venture capitalists and the biopharma industry, as expressed by AUTM participants. With this apparent stalemate and the August House recess rapidly approaching, it appears that US patent reform may well be delayed.

The second theme was the progress towards a Unitary Patent and a Unified Patent Court (UPC) in Europe. With the dismissal by the CJEU of Spain’s challenges, the way is now clear for those Signatory States, that have not yet done so, to ratify the UPC Agreement. There was interest in these upcoming patent reforms in Europe, with a widespread consensus that the reforms will mean that greater value will be attributed in future by investors and companies to European patents (whether Unitary Patents or the current bundle of national Patents).

Predictions offered by AUTM participants included that patent disputes between multinationals are more likely, in future, to involve legal proceedings in the UPC, in addition to the US Courts. This would result in an increase in the volume of patent litigation outside the US.

Our hopes are that the US legislature addresses US abusive patent litigation in a more targeted manner and that the UPC gains early support across Europe.

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If you would like to receive more information on AUTM 2015 and on Life Sciences, contact Maura O’Connell, European Patent Attorney.

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