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Jan 20, 2012

USPTO's report on International Patent Protections for Small Businesses


On January 13, 2012, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“Patent Office”) released a report on International Patent Protection for Small Businesses. Under the America Invents Act, Congress directed the Patent Office to conduct this study to determine how to best assist small businesses with international patent protection. More specifically, Congress invited the Patent Office to study whether a loan program or grant program should be established in order to help small businesses pay for the costs of applying and maintaining international patent applications and any additional recommendations for assisting small businesses with patent filings abroad.

The report recognizes the huge impact small businesses have on creating American jobs and the challenges small businesses face when competing in a global market. Patent protection is typically necessary attract investors and yet funding is needed in order to obtain adequate patent protection. At the early stages of life, small businesses more often than not, forgo international patent protection because such protection can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Additionally, the report recognizes that many other countries around the world subsidize patenting by their citizens -- China being the most aggressive in this regard. Unfortunately for small businesses, even after making these findings, the Patent Office does not recommend a federal grant or loan program to help small businesses with international patent protection.

In researching and preparing the report, the Patent Office relied primarily on public input. The Patent Office held two public hearings to collect evidence and received a mere eighteen sets of comments. Based upon these comments, the Patent Office reported that there was considerable skepticism as to whether a federal grant or loan program would be helpful for small businesses. Rather, the comments suggested diplomacy and patent system harmonization to help reduce the cost of international patent prosecution. Therefore, in its report to Congress, the Patent Office is not recommending a federal grant or loan program at this time. Rather, the Patent Office supports further research in this area and an aggressive program of small business education on international patent protection.

Carr & Ferrell LLP recognizes the challenges small businesses face when deciding whether to invest in patent protection in the United States or even abroad. In this regard, we have prepared an Alternative Funding Resource Guide to assist small businesses in finding funding sources that may have been overlooked. We invite you to check out this wonderful resource.

This article reflects the author's personal views, which may differ from the views of other Carr & Ferrell LLP employees. Our blog articles are neither opinions of the Firm nor legal advice on which you should rely. Please review our disclaimer.

Dennis Chang

Dennis Chang is a Patent Attorney with Carr & Ferrell's Intellectual Property Practice Group.  Mr. Chang holds a B.S. in Biology and a Master's Degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington and received his JD from Chicago-Kent College of Law.

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