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Todd Dickinson on living with the AIA rules day-to-day

The AIPLA's chief executive on his priorities for the coming year

What do you see as the chief role of AIPLA as an IP association during such an active time in the history of IP law and enforcement?

Training is more important than ever this year because of changes like the America Invents Act (AIA). We’ve run webinars attended by many thousands of people around the AIA in recent months, and we hosted a three-day, three-city road show with the USPTO. There is an amazing need for training in this area.

Last year marked our largest Annual Meeting in history by 10% and we’re on track to go beyond that this year. Understanding the actual rules for your clients is key. By coming to the Annual Meeting you get to sit face-to-face with people and learn something new from them. Living with the AIA rules day-to-day will be the next phase of this, so sharing actual real life experience with the USPTO will be crucial.

We’ve even started training on the AIA in other languages. As IP becomes more globalized and the need to harmonize and improve systems more important, talking with one another and reinforcing best practices is even more essential. There is an almost insatiable demand for AIA education.

How do you balance training members on the new law without sacrificing public outreach and advocacy?

Both membership education and public outreach have been part of our strategic plan for a long time. We have a lot of experience working with Congress and foreign countries on IP advocacy issues, and we have several new public outreach initiatives.
The Rapid Response Team is one public outreach program that came up under outgoing President Bill Barber. When there are particularly unbalanced publications about IP online or in print, the team responds in order to provide a more rounded view. Public perception has become a particular challenge, so a lot of the work has focused around writing letters to the editor and educating reporters (see box). The real challenge on public outreach is finding the appropriate balance of proactivity and reactivity.

Outside of the AIA, what are some of the key issues AIPLA is working on this year?

Another hot topic we’re watching is the prospect of a small patent claims court, which the American Bar Association has been working on. That’s something we’re very interested in as far as potential new ways of making the patent system more user friendly.
Other hot topics we’re doing a lot of work on include patent quality in the international IP offices and the role of the International Trade Commission (ITC) with respect to standard setting and essential patents. I also just finished up a colloquium on patent application quality in conjunction with FICPI in Warsaw, Poland in September. And of course, the U.S. elections have potential to impact certain things this year as well, so we’ll be monitoring that closely.

International efforts at harmonization have been spurred by the AIA, and we are participating in a number of fora that are driving that process forward. With repect to the internet, we have been active in encouraging ICANN to provide adequate safeguards to trademark owners as they roll out almost 200 new gTLDs.

What have been some of your biggest accomplishments since last year?

Under President Bill Barber, we helped to get the Trademark Dilution Revision Act amended and corrected to change language that made it possible to use a federal trademark registration to bar a federal action for trademark dilution. The law was intended to allow a federal registration to block state dilution claims, but had been rewritten in a way that extended that language to federal claims as well, which was particularly burdensome to trademark owners. Bill Barber is going to have a lot of interesting accomplishments from his year as President.

The decision to join with AIPPI-US is another great achievement that we think will benefit both AIPPI and AIPLA members by expanding the scope and depth of both organizations.

What will be some of the highlights of this year’s meeting?

Today Judge Kathleen O’Malley of the Federal Circuit will be speaking, and I’m really excited to hear what she has to say. More generally I think you’ll see that AIPLA is becoming higher-tech and more visible in terms of what we do for members.

Rapid Response Team
Here are some representative articles the Rapid Response Team has responded to with the goal of educating reporters and the public on the value of strong IP protection.
  • A Washington Post op-ed which argued that software patents should be completely eliminated, primarily because they are too difficult for the USPTO and competitors to search.
  • A New York Times article entitled “The Patent, Used As a Sword,” reporting that patents are more of a weapon than an incentive.
  • A Washington Post article on software patents, which argued that the system is broken or out of control.
  • A Wall Street Journal article entitled “Your right to resell your own stuff is in peril,” reporting that the Supreme Court may permit copyright owners to prevent resales.
  • A Washington Post article on software patents, which painted a bleak picture of our country’s IP system.

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