Do You Think Software Patents Are a Problem? Then Come to This Conference, SCU, Nov. 16

By Eric Goldman

I’m sure you are feeling the ongoing angst associated with software patents. In the past few months, Google, Judge Posner, and the opinion pages have all expressed dismay about software patents and how they’re being used. Ancedotally, everything I’m seeing and hearing indicates that software patents remain a significant problem, even after the America Invents Act (AIA).

There’s plenty to discuss, but it’s also time for action. To catalyze action, the High Tech Law Institute is organizing a full-day program, entitled “Solutions to the Software Patent Problem,” November 16 at SCU. Our goal is to bring together the community of people interested in software patents, discuss possible fixes to the problems of software patents, and then see if consensus emerges about actions we should pursue.

Thus, this conference looks a little different than our normal conferences. Rather than debate the problem, we start with the premise that software patents are problematic. Then, in order to catalyze the community, we’ve structured the event to look more like a VC pitch conference than an academic conference. In rapid-fire succession, experts will present their favored proposal–legislative, administrative, judicial, or market-based–to redress the problems with software patents. We’ll have experts on the panels to help critique the proposals. To further extend the discussion, we will also have an online symposium of short essays at pitching some of the conference proposals to a lay audience.

In the end, it will be up to the audience and the software patent community generally to decide what, if any, action to take regarding the proposals. If everything goes as we hope, the conversation at the conference and online will produce demonstrable efforts towards fixing the problems with software patents.

We are co-sponsoring this event with our friends at the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, the EFF, units of IEEE and Cooley LLP. By bringing together disparate participants in the software patent ecosystem, we anticipate the audience will learn as much from each other as from the presenters. As usual for our events, we’ve kept admission costs reasonable, and lots of folks can get in for reduced rates or even free. Our main goal is to get the community together in one room so we can vet the issue and the solutions and make real progress. I hope you can part a part of that endeavor.


The detailed schedule (subject to change):

8:50 – 9:00 Welcome/Introduction

9:00 – 9:40 Keynote #1: What is the Problem?

Moderator: Andrew Chin, University of North Carolina

Richard Stallman, Free Software Foundation

Kent Walker, Google

9:40 – 10:50 Panel #1: Legal Reform, Part 1

James Bessen, Boston University School of Law

Brian Love, Santa Clara University School of Law

Christal Sheppard, University of Nebraska College of Law

Colleen Chien, Santa Clara University School of Law

Commenters: Michael Meurer, Boston University School of Law/Jason Mendelson, Foundry Group

10:50 – 11:05 Break

11:05 – 12:15 Panel #2: Agency Reform

Peter Menell, UC Berkeley School of Law

Arti Rai, Duke Law School

John Allison, McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin

Michael Risch, Villanova Law School

Commenters: Amy Landers, McGeorge College of Law/Christina Mulligan, Yale Law School

12:15 – 1:00 Lunch

1:00 – 2:00 Keynote #2: Views from the Trenches

Moderator: Kristen Osenga, University of Richmond School of Law

Drew Hirshfeld, United States Patent and Trademark Office

Honorable Edith Ramirez, Federal Trade Commission

Honorable Paul Grewal, Northern District of California

2:00 – 3:10 Panel #3: Legal Reform, Part 2

Mark Lemley, Stanford Law School

John Duffy, University of Virginia School of Law

Ted Sichelman, University of San Diego School of Law

Samson Vermont, University of Miami School of Law

Commenters: Suzanne Michel, Google/Heidi Keefe, Cooley LLP

3:10 – 3:30 Break

3:30 – 4:40 Panel #4: Self Help

Keith Bergelt, Open Innovation Network

Jennifer Urban, UC Berkeley School of Law

Dan Ravicher, Public Patent Foundation

Wendy Seltzer, Yale Law School

Commenters: Brad Burnham, Union Square Ventures/Ben Lee, Twitter

4:40 – 5:20 Keynote #3

Moderator: Nair Flores, Facebook

Pam Samuelson, UC Berkeley School of Law

Julie Samuels, Electronic Frontier Foundation

5:20 Conclusion

5:30 – 6:30 Reception