State of Innovation

Patents and Innovation Economics

Mark Twain on the America Invents Act

It is strange to see how Americans’ attitudes have changed toward the patent system.  Mark Twain, who was probably representative of what intelligent Americans’ felt about their country at the time, writes extensively about the patent system.  In the book, Innocents Abroad, he explains the virtues of our country and moral decay of Europe by contrasting the patent system to the preservers of art.  Remember Twain was first and foremost an artist and he held this opinion.  He states:

The Popes have long been the patrons and preservers of art, just as our new, practical Republic is the encourager and upholder of mechanics.  In their Vatican is stored up all that is curious and beautiful in art; in our Patent Office is hoarded all that is curious or useful in mechanics.  When a man invents a new style of horse-collar or discovers a new and superior method of telegraphing, our government issues a patent to him that is worth a fortune; when a man digs up an ancient statue in the Campagna, the Pope gives him a fortune in gold coin.  We can make something of a guess at a man’s character by the style of nose he carries on his face.  The Vatican and the Patent Office are governmental noses, and they bear a deal of character about them. (Emphasis added)

In the last fifteen years we have extended the copyright term to be almost infinite, we have criminalize willful copyright infringement and we have had numerous government programs to protect intellectual property, which always means copyrights and perhaps trademarks, but not patents.  Alternatively, we have spent the last fifteen years stealing the fees inventors pay to the patent office, we have forced the publication of U.S. inventors’ patent applications for the world to see and steal, we have vilified the actions of our greatest inventors such as Edison, calling them trolls and some have even suggested that Edison really made incremental improvements on other people’s inventions, and called inventor’s monopolists.  Twain would be horrified by our capitulation to Europe enshrined in the America Invents Act.  It says something about our character that we are following in the Popes footsteps.

 

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September 17, 2011 - Posted by | Patents | , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Where do we send in our tax deductable contribution (or not deductable) to fight this law in the Supreme Court? Are there any rumors of such an action being considered by anyone in particular? Are there any lawyers whose reputation seems to indicate that they are especially suited to the task or who should be on the team?

    Comment by Matthew Artero | September 19, 2011 | Reply

  2. Matthew, I have been wondering the same thing, but have not heard any rumors. Ideally, you would want to raise all the Constitutional issues in one case. It is possible that the courts would argue that the plaintiff has a lack of standing for the “first-to-file” issues since these have a 18 month phase in period. Generally, you want at least one former Supreme Court clerk on your litigation team. I do not have anyone in mind right now.

    Comment by dbhalling | September 19, 2011 | Reply


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