Microsoft Voices Support for Patent Reform, Backs White House Plan
No stranger to the patent wars, Microsoft supports the White House's efforts to improve the U.S. patent system.Microsoft is backing the White House in its efforts to revamp a patent system that has become the source of litigation between technology companies and IP holding firms. On Feb. 20, the Obama administration announced new executive actions, including an initiative to crowdsource prior art and expand the United States Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) Patent Examiner Technical Training Program to "help patent examiners keep up with fast-changing technological fields by making it easier for technologists, engineers, and other experts to provide relevant technical training and guidance to patent examiners," said the White House in a statement. "Microsoft applauds and supports these efforts," Horacio Gutierrez, deputy general counsel and corporate vice president of legal and corporate affairs at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post. "All stakeholders, including those of us in the private sector, have a key role to play in keeping this system healthy." Microsoft is providing visibility into its own patent portfolio through its Patent Tracker Tool, a searchable online database that was launched last year. The tool enables users to examine more than 37,000 patents issued to the company worldwide. "That same commitment to transparency and quality has driven our efforts to make prior art information more easily accessible to the USPTO."
One of the major challenges the USPTO faces is the agency's lack of "easy access to an enormous amount" of prior art information as it reviews thousands of applications to determine if they contain truly novel ideas, said Gutierrez. Microsoft is working on that front as well with a prior art initiative that the company kicked off in the fall of 2013.