Slide to unlock patent

The patent system is busted. Litigious companies suing over vaguely worded claims, tying up courts and throwing obstacles at each other, preventing consumers like you and me from getting our tech goodies, make that perfectly clear.

That fact isn’t lost on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office either. That’s why the USPTO is planning to hold an open forum of sorts in New York and Silicon Valley next month, when the public will get a chance to address the patent process as it relates to software-related matters and air some suggestions for improving it.

In other words, if you’ve been complaining about the increasingly ridiculous legal environment and have ideas on how to improve the system, it’s time to put up or shut up. The administration is all ears and hopes to hear from knowledgeable members of the tech community, particularly developers.

The Silicon Valley meeting will take place on February 12, and the New York City gathering is slated for February 27. The deets on how to register or submit comments for public inspection are below, courtesy of the Federal Register. If you go, however, bear in mind that the USPTO is an administrative office, not lawmakers, so it can’t change existing legislation. What it can do is revise the process and address certain matters, like clarifying the terms that define the scope of a patent, among other things.


New York City event: Wednesday, February 27, 2013, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST, at New York University, Henry Kaufman Management Center, Faculty Lounge, Room 11-185, 44 West 4th St., New York, NY 10012.

Silicon Valley event: Tuesday, February 12, 2013, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. PST, at Stanford University, Paul Brest Hall, 555 Salvatierra Walk, Stanford, CA 94305-2087.

Registration is required, and early registration is recommended. There is no fee, and registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. The deadline is February 4, 2013, and “day-of” registration will be on a space-available basis starting 30 minutes before the event.

To register, please send an email message to [email protected] and provide the following information: (1) Your name, title, and if applicable, company or organization, address, phone number, and email address; (2) which roundtable event you wish to attend (Silicon Valley or New York City); and (3) if you wish to make an oral presentation at the event, the specific topic or issue to be addressed and the approximate desired length of your presentation. Each attendee, even if from the same organization, must register separately.

Written comments should be sent via email to [email protected], or by mail to: Mail Stop Comments—Patents, Commissioner for Patents, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313-1450, marked to the attention of Seema Rao, Director Technology Center 2100. Although comments may be submitted by mail, the USPTO prefers to receive comments via the Internet.

The comments will be available for public inspection at the Office of the Commissioner for Patents in Alexandria, VA, and will be posted on the USPTO online at Again, comments will be made public, so do not include your address or phone number. If you need to cite confidential information to illustrate a point, summarize the scenario or otherwise carefully submit the info in a way that will permit its public disclosure.

For more details on this or hosting a presentation, click to see the notice online or hit up the link to the PDF below.