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Who's Really Being Protected?
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Pizzo: Okay, I don't want to be Jerry Springer here, so let's move on to the next subject. The whole concept of "Who is your customer?" has also come up several times, and you've gotten slapped around good on it. I mean you took quite a beating in the New York Times magazine saying basically that your customer is whoever applies for a patent. Now, you say that's not true.

Dickinson: No, I didn't say it wasn't true. The reporter on that read a poster that's framed outside my office that was intended to remind the people that work here that they should provide good customer service, courteous customer service, and responsive customer service. He took that and took it out of context and tried to claim that it meant that we didn't care about the public. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have an important fiduciary responsibility to the public at large as well.

Pizzo: So why don't you expand just a little bit on how you balance your responsibility to the individuals that come in looking for a patent under all current laws and the public trust. I mean at times those are going to come -- are those going to come into conflict?

Dickinson: What we try to do is do the best job we can in examining our patents -- searching and examining patent applications, and making sure they're of appropriate breadth under the statute, and to do that we need to make sure we have access to the best prior art. We continue -- we have good access, we have very good access now, and we're going to try to get even better access. We're out reaching to a number of entities to help us with that. We just signed an agreement, for example, with the Information Technology Association of America, who's going to come and help us work with our examiners to get access to additional databases and additional prior art. And we also rely very heavily again on Rule 56. We have a re-examination system, which if -- I make this challenge all the time. I've made it to Mr. O'Reilly, too. If you're aware of prior art out there that invalidates a patent that is existing, file a re-examination. We'll be happy to take a look at it. I've done a couple of these. Mr. O'Reilly hasn't filed any. I've actually filed two myself in the last six months.

Tim: My understanding -- I have two real issues here. One is that you're diverting resources from actual development to doing battle with the system. You know, I see a lot of people are sitting there, "Do we file a patent, or do we do real research or real development?" So that's one issue. I mean, people shouldn't have to fight over the tools of their trade, in my opinion. But let me just ask the other question. In terms of filing for a re-examination, my understanding is that once you ask for a re-examination, the patent holder gets to comment to the private ruling, and then that prior art can no longer be used in any court cases, so it seems weighted very heavily in favor of the applicant.

Dickinson: Absolutely, Mr. O'Reilly. One thing we were lacking was your very cogent voice last year as this legislation was pending on Capitol Hill. We very strongly supported expanding that re-examination, and it only passed in November, and I didn't hear you or Mr. Bezos raise your voices once to try to keep that kind of loophole from being included in the legislation.

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