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Congressman Proposes Sensible, Two-Step Patent Reform Process

Earlier today I reprinted a statement from Maine Congressman Michaud voicing his opposition to the proposed patent reform bill (pdf). The most salient point from Michaud:

Patent reform should focus on addressing the Patent and Trademark Office’s backlog, first, and do no harm, second.

By far, the least controversial aspect of patent reform are the funding provisions. Section 22 of the House bill (and Section 20 of the S.23) would allow the patent office to manage its own finances  by keeping the fees it collects. Meanwhile, other provisions, such as First-to-file and prior user rights have been met with vocal dissent. For example, Michaud notes:

The first to file provisions in the bill, with the addition of prior user rights language, is particularly problematic for universities, tech startups, and small inventors. I urge the committee to take testimony and input from a broad range of stakeholders so that we can find a better way forward on this important issue.

While supporters are skeptical of the potential for negative impact of this proposal, no one can predict what the outcome will be.  Until we can all get on the same page, why not take a step back and work from a common ground.

I don’t know if this is what the Congressman was suggesting but why not vote on a bill that provides the patent office with the funding that it needs now,  and leave the remaining changes to another day?  This will give the patent office a chance to catch up, and will give proponents of first-to-file a chance to gather actual empirical data to demonstrate its benefits.

Once of the places they can look to is Canada, which not only operates under a first-to-file patent system, but switched to it from an American-style first-to-invent system in 1989. According to one study that’s already been conducted, the change “failed to stimulate Canadian R&D efforts” and had an “adverse effect on domestic-oriented industries and skewed the ownership structure of patented inventions towards large corporations, away from independent inventors and small businesses.”



6 thoughts on “Congressman Proposes Sensible, Two-Step Patent Reform Process

  1. “Patent reform should focus on addressing the Patent and Trademark Office’s backlog, first, and do no harm, second”

    Absolutely! This bill is an infringer’s dream and an inventor’s nightmare.

    Just because they call it “reform” doesn’t mean it is. Patent reform is a fraud on America.

    Please see http://truereform.piausa.org/ for a different/opposing view on patent reform.

    Posted by staff | April 1, 2011, 5:30 pm
  2. I agree. It doesn’t seem to make an incredible amount of sense to include in this patent reform bill numerous provisions that are simultaneously significant and controversial. Since the PTO’s backlog is today’s main patent law concern, and there is apparently universal agreement as to fee diversion and fee-setting authority, it would make most sense to focus on getting the office the funding that it needs to tackle the backlog, and then just getting out of the way.

    Posted by patent litigation | April 5, 2011, 2:10 am


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