The specialty chemical industry relies on patent and intellectual property law, but those standards are changing.
Platform Specialty Products’ vice president of legal, John Cordani, says research and quick action to protect research results are the best legal—
and business—strategies to keep up with and remain competitive during these changes.
In 2013, Congress passed the America Invents Act, which included a series of patent and intellectual property law changes. One of them was a shift from a first-to-invent to a first-to-file patent application system. Under this change, the United States has adopted a system used by a majority of other countries which stipulates the filing date takes precedent over the date of invention. For the specialty chemicals industry, this change has created a greater sense of urgency to file applications.
In addition to the passage of that act, companies like Platform Specialty Products Corporation have had to adapt their strategy in order to stay ahead of the curve. “For us, as a specialty chemicals company, intellectual property and patent law are the lifeblood of our industry,” Cordani says. “It applies to every product we sell. Each one is designed to accomplish particular purposes for our industry, so intellectual property arises from thinking about that, designing the new product, accomplishing that specific purpose, and ultimately instructing the customer how to use the product appropriately.”
Companies in Cordani’s industry file patents frequently. The regulation of chemicals is also very extensive and tends to change frequently, which makes being well-versed in intellectual property and patent reform increasingly important.
Platform Specialty Products implemented researcher training to stress the urgency imposed by patent reform. They also rely on alert services that summarize changes in the regulations and intellectual property landscape in a manner that the research team can easily study and understand.
“One of the most important things we can accomplish is to provide additional resources to the US Patent Office in order to allow them to review patent applications more quickly and in a more thorough manner.”
Intellectual property and patent reform have also become increasingly important in the specialty chemicals industry because of competition with megacompanies. In the last ten years, Platform Specialty Products has been involved in an ongoing patent dispute with DuPont over the sale and development of photopolymer equipment used to create printing plates.
With DuPont’s pending merger with Dow Chemicals, the company will soon be the world’s largest chemical company worth $130 billion. “We are in an industry that has behemoth companies, and we’re capable of dealing with them to the extent that we need to,” Cordani says.
With recent reform, Cordani says the biggest challenge continues to be tackling the extensive patent portfolio of the industry. He says it’s difficult to maneuver without having the appropriate background, skills, and analysis.
There are benefits to the new laws, says Cordani. With the first-to-file system, the biggest advantage has been improvements to the ability to invalidate unworthy patents. The reform that was passed allows for a more expansive and reliable methods to do so.
As for the future of intellectual property and patent reform, Cordani says these changes are significant to him and the industry.
“One of the most important things we can accomplish is to provide additional resources to the US Patent Office in order to allow them to review patent applications more quickly and in a more thorough manner,” Cordani says, “which would increase the likelihood of only valid patents getting granted in a timely manner.”