Patents: Home on the Range or Wild Frontier?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012; 2:00 - 6:00 PM
@ Wittemyer Courtroom, Wolf Law Building, University of Colorado


To view video recordings of the event, click here.

For a report summarizing the conference written by Laura Schneider Click Here.

The role of patents in our economy is becoming more critical as we move toward an economy where value is represented by intangible assets rather than tangible ones. The America Invents Act was enacted to update the Patent Act and enable the Patent Office to grapple with an increasing number of patent applications. Even with the reforms embodied in that law, commenters and practitioners have offered a series of differing analysis from economic, ethical or technological perspectives. At this conference, we will bring together some of the leading thinkers on patent policy and examine the arguments and metaphors about the future of patent policy.

Panel 1: Are Patents Fences or Landmines?
Different companies and different industries treat patents differently. Some see them as a valuable offensive or defensive tool, while others see them as an annoyance or a cost of doing business. Some see them as providing valuable disclosure and setting property lines around which competition and innovation can thrive, while others see them as unpredictable and undefined thickets that hinder innovation. Are patent claims effective (or can they be) at delineating inventive activity? Does the patent system (or can it) facilitate disclosure? This panel will attempt to go beyond the rhetoric and take a more scientific approach to these questions, investigating economic, technical and ethical perspectives on the question of how patents can be used and abused.

Panel 2: The Evolving Patent Landscape
Patent holders and others are finding increasingly clever ways of monetizing patent portfolios. There are always the tried and true leveraging techniques, like litigation, cross-licensing and asset transfers. But, in recent years, patents have reared their heads in many new and diverse forums, including patent auctions, patent portfolio insurance, "patent assertion" entities, standard-setting bodies, etc. How does this diversification affect the patent instrument itself? How does it affect patent holders or businesses trying to enter the patent fray? How does it affect the greater economy? The panel will not only discuss how patents are being used in the marketplace, but under what circumstances businesses and technologists push ethical boundaries (say, as to the disclosure, or lack thereof, of patents considered in a standard setting).

Panel 3: Patents as the Modern-Day Gold Rush
There is a modern rush by companies to fill their coffers full of patent claims, much of which arguably amounts to prospecting. On one hand, this could be considered a bad thing. Staking claims to property that a company may never use or that may not be well defined creates what has been called "a patent thicket." On the other hand, the gold rush that brought the exploration of the West (like the patent race within Silicon Valley) can be seen as spurring productive activity. The panel will discuss this analogy and evaluate its fit with and implications for patent policy. In so doing, it will also discuss strategies, including those made possible by the American Invents Act, to manage the increasing number of patent applications that the Patent Office is forced to deal with.

2:00pm - 2:15pm
  • Nina Wang
    Faegre Baker Daniels
  • Phil Weiser
    University of Colorado Law School
    Executive Director
    Silicon Flatirons
Opening Keynote
2:15pm - 2:45pm
  • David Kappos
    Under Secretary
    Commerce for Intellectual Property
    United States Patent and Trademark Office
Panel 1: Are Patents Fences or Landmines?
2:45pm - 3:45pm
  • Thomas R. Cech
    Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
    University of Colorado
    Director, University of Colorado Biofrontiers Institute
    Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
    Principal Investigator, Cech Lab
  • Natalie Hanlon Leh
    Co-Partner-in-Charge, Denver Office
  • David St. John-Larkin
    Perkins Coie
  • John Thorne
    Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel
    Verizon Communications Inc.
  • Phil Weiser
    University of Colorado Law School
    Executive Director
    Silicon Flatirons
3:45pm - 4:00pm
Panel 2: The Evolving Patent Landscape
4:00pm - 5:00pm
  • Aaron Brodsky
    Managing Counsel
    Oracle Corporation
  • Bernard Chao
    Assistant Professor of Law
    University of Denver
  • Roy Hoffinger
    Vice President, Legal Counsel
  • Mallun Yen
    Executive Vice President
Panel 3: Patents as the Modern-Day Gold Rush
5:00pm - 6:00pm
  • Stanley Dempsey
    Chairman of the Board of Directors
    Royal Gold
  • Patty Limerick
    Faculty Director & Chair of the Board
    Center of the American West
    University of Colorado
  • Keith Maskus
    Professor, Department of Economics
    Associate Dean for Social Sciences
    University of Colorado
  • Lee Osman
    Dorsey & Whitney LLP
  • Paul Ohm
    Associate Professor of Law
    Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
    University of Colorado

Conference Summary

For a report summarizing the conference written by Laura Schneider Click Here

Speaker Presentations