Patent trolls, beware

Patent trolls, beware

By Deborah Lohse & Steven Boyd Saum

Patent regard: Chien testifying before Congress in spring 2013. Photo by Jay Mallin
The White House has brought on SCU’s Colleen Chien, a leading expert in patent law, as senior advisor.

Expertise in patent law has made Associate Professor of Law Colleen Chien a known presence in Washington, D.C., for a while. In spring 2013 she testified before the House Judiciary Committee on one way to fix the patent system in this country: reducing litigation by reducing the role the government plays. Since September 2013, she’s had the chance to have a hand in making that happen: She joined the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as senior advisor for intellectual property and innovation under Todd Park, President Obama’s chief technology office. She also counsels Park on issues related to privacy, open government, and civil liberties.

An internationally recognized expert in patent law, Chien was recently named one of the 50 most influential people in intellectual property worldwide by Managing IP magazine. She has served as an attorney with Silicon Valley firm Fenwick & West. A daughter of Chinese immigrants, Chien also worked with the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism as a Fulbright scholar.

Her most notable research and writing is on patent “trolls”—outfits that don’t actually make anything but that acquire patents so they can sue companies that do actually design, build, and sell. In a piece she wrote for Forbes a couple years ago, she asserted, “Patent law should be brought down to earth, so that it does not, on balance, divert resources away from the creation of products for customers and towards the creation of disputes for lawyers to settle.” Here’s hoping.

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