IP outsourcing threatens national interest?

The New Wave of Protectionism is here, in IP, too. Outsourcing in IP/law seems to be the latest target of the anti-outsourcing brigade in the US, going by a letter that is doing the rounds. Apparently authored by a Patent Agent at a US law firm, this letter argues that outsourcing in IP, which is “foolish and dangerous”, threatens “national interest”.

With a subject line that refers to the “Blatent (sic) Disregard or Violation of U.S. Commerce and Trade Regulations by Outsourcing of Patent Applications”, the letter is a template that invites readers to forward personally addressed versions of it to their respective (US) Congressional Representatives, and moots for stopping the unlawful export of subject matter of U.S. patent applications being prepared abroad for filing in the U.S.A. (Image from: Flatclassroom)

IPKat has a delightful note on this, which I would urge all of you to read, with not-to-be-missed line-by-line commentary. Check out also the comments that follow the post, noting particularly Anonymous at 7.11.

Surely you’re joking, Mr Goel?
Apart from the fact that I suspect it may be spam (spelling error in subject line? – ‘erm, this is not a blog post. You’re not forgiven’), there’s a comic twist to this letter that had me rolling on the floor laughing – the author of the letter is apparently one Mr Gaurav Goel, a Registered Patent Agent with a firm in Texas. I shall not say more on that front.

Ringing death knells with notices?
Meanwhile, the letter indirectly draws attention to a USPTO notice on “the Scope of Foreign Filing Licenses”, which is essentially a reminder to patent applicants and registered patent practitioners that a foreign filing license does not authorize them to send invention disclosures abroad to draft patent applications for eventual first filings in the United States.

This is not a new issue, as readers would recall. Shamnad had blogged on this over a year ago, in an early analysis of the notice, which was followed by a detailed guest post from Dr Sushil Kumar of Clairvolex, a leading Indian LPO in IP, critically analysing the notice and its implications for Indian practitioners. Dr Kumar particularly pointed out that the notice was hardly a “death knell” for the LPO industry, as many had mistakenly feared.

Oh, but what about ‘National Interest’?
This letter, on the other hand, wishes to import meaning where none exists, specifically suggesting that US trade rules were being flouted, hinging its argument substantially on the existence of certain groups on the business networking site The letter makes a couple of assumptions on this basis, and I quote from the version at IPKat: that “either the U.S. government is allowing a massive number of U.S. patent disclosures to be sent abroad for preparation, or this is being done without the appropriate government clearances.

It continues:

“If the former is true, then this suggests the U.S. government is undermining our own national interests. If the latter is true, it suggests that many patent owners are exporting subject matter in violation of U.S. commerce and trade policies, while trying to gain advantage of those very same commerce policies, i.e., patent protection, here in the U.S.A. The activity evident on the website alone suggests this is being done on a massive scale. There is even a Linkedin group called Outsourcing of Legal Services with a very strong representation of foreign patent workers preparing U.S. applications and correspondence to the U.S.P.T.O.”

“National interest” appears to be the primary concern of the letter-writer, repeatedly referred to in the course of the missive, which is apparently threatened by this kind of “foolish and dangerous” outsourcing. It seems futile to go into an explanation of what the US trade rules actually are, and how it impacts an outsourcing country like India. For the moment, I believe an Economics 101 might be overdue, with an International Relations minor thrown in for good measure. (DS curve from here)

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