State of Innovation

Patents and Innovation Economics

Patent Deform Act of 2011: Approved by Senate Committee

So called Patent Reform is a bad idea that just will not die.  This is the sixth year in a row where this idea has been brought to the floor of the Senate or House.  While some of the most offensive provisions have been eliminated, it is still a bill designed to weaken our patent system and help large companies at the expense of startups and individual inventors.  For instance, the bill still contains “First-to-File” provision.  A first to file system will result in many poorly thought out patent applications increasing the PTO’s workload and increasing the number of Continuations-In-Part (CIPs).  The confusion created by this system of filing early and then following up with corrected applications will result in litigation being more expensive and less certain.  In addition, this system will further bias the patent system in favor of large entities.  Large entities will use a first to file system to flood the PTO with patents to overwhelm small entities and individual inventors in the race to the patent office.  Small entities and individual inventors will never be able to compete financially in this race.  According to the SBA, most emerging technologies are created by small entities not large entities.  As a result, we need to make sure that our patent system is friendly for small entities if we want it to encourage innovation.

In addition, the bill expands post grant oppositions.  This again stacks the deck in favor of large corporations who can afford to fight these oppositions.  It is likely that post grant oppositions will be used by large corporations to bankrupt startups.  If we are going to have post grant oppositions we need to make patents incontestable, like trademarks, after a certain period of time.  See Making Patents Incontestable

Real Patent Reform

Here are my suggestions for real patent reform that would not only help small inventors but the US economy.

1) Repeal Publication: This would restore the social contract

2) Repeal KSR: A subject standard of patentability just increases costs and uncertainty associated with the patent process.  KSR makes bureaucrats the ultimate arbiter of what is patentable instead of logic.

3) Repay PTO & End Fee Diversion:  Congress should repay the over $1B it stole from inventors with interest.  It should also end fee diversion, which if Congress was subject to Sarbane Oxley would land them in jail.

4) Regional Offices for PTO:  This would ensure steady funding of the PTO, increase examiner retention, and ensure that the PTO is not so Washington biased.

5) Repeal eBay:  This decision is a logical absurdity.  If a patent gives you the right to exclude, then if you win a patent infringement case you must be able to enforce your only right – the right to exclude.  This is not an issue of equity, it is an issue of enforcing the right associated with a patent.

6) Eliminate “Combination of Known Elements”:  The fact that the Supreme Court does not understand that every invention in the history of the world is a combination of known elements is pinnacle of ignorance.  Have they ever heard of “conservation of matter and energy”?

7) Patent Reciprocity:  If you drive your car across the border into Canada you do not lose title to your car.  If you take your manuscript across the border into Canada you do not lose the copyright to your manuscript.  But, if you take your invention across the border into Canada, you lose your patent protection and anyone can steal the invention – not the physical embodiment, but the underlying invention.

Patent reciprocity would automatically provide patent rights in a foreign country when you obtained a patent in the US and vice versa.  This idea was first proposed by the US in the mid 1800s according to B. Zorina Kahn’s book “

The Democratization of Invention: Patents and Copyrights in American Economic Development, 1790-1920 


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February 8, 2011 - Posted by | -Law, Patents | , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. The one patent reform provision that we REALLY need is the one that Congress likes the least: a bill or amendment amendment ending fee diversion. The Coburn amendment (or something similar) is essential to revival of the patent office. There is no way that the USPTO can get itself on firm footing any time very soon, unless the legislature stops raiding its revenue. All other reform provisions in this proposed legislation pale in comparison.

    Comment by patent litigation | February 28, 2011 | Reply


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