MADISON – Be very afraid when a member of Congress announces that a major reason to “reform” the
Even during an era when America-bashing is back in vogue, there are certain things this country does well – and has always done well – much to the consternation of our rivals and competitors overseas.
One of those things is innovation. In fact, the
Fair and predictable patent law has been a solid foundation, but American innovation has other pillars. Personal and political freedom, a business culture that encourages people to take risks, honest bureaucrats, nimble financial markets and an unparalleled system of higher education have all combined over the past two centuries to turn American ideas into global products.
Despite lapses by some core industries that forgot – for a while – how to innovate,
Two hundred-plus years of success is no deterrent to U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who earlier this spring trotted out his latest attempt to rewrite existing patent law. Among other changes, Leahy and a bipartisan list of co-sponsors called for creating a pure “first-to-file” system.
Proponents of first-to-file claim it would simplify the patent process, reduce legal costs, improve fairness and enhance the opportunity to make progress toward a more harmonized international patent system. Opponents say they’re worried that “first-to-file” would promote a rush to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office with hastily prepared disclosure information, resulting in a decline in patent quality at a time when the patent office is already struggling to keep up.
Also, because many independent inventors and small entities lack the money and expertise, they would be unlikely to win a “race to the patent office” against large, well-endowed entities.
Leahy’s call for “international consistency” could be read as “dumbing down” our patent law to fall into line with those nations that can only wish for
In a letter written in mid-May, about 70 organizations ranging from venture capital firms to biotech companies to academic institutions such as the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation expressed strong concerns about bill (H.R. 1908/S. 1145).
“We strongly believe that certain provisions … will not strengthen our patent system but instead will fundamentally undermine patent certainty, discourage investment in innovative technologies, and reduce publication and collaborative activities among academic scientists,” the group wrote.
“For companies (directly and as university licensees) in industries such as ours, the consequences – greater bureaucracy, inability to rely on valid patents, weakened protections against infringement and a decreased access to capital – would be devastating. The harm to investment in tomorrow’s technologies would be felt immediately, and would hurt
The bill receiving a hearing last week before Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs. Committee members include both
“When considering changes to (the patent system), we urge the committee to consider carefully the cautionary language embraced by the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm.”
Still is president of the