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america invents act, IP, Patent

If Patent Interference Practice Is Too Expensive For Inventors, Why Is Eliminating It The Answer?

New Scientist reporter Paul Marks has written one of the more balanced articles on patent reform that I’ve read in a very long time.  In it, Marks recounts the tale of an American inventor who defeated firms from Japan and Europe, prevailing in his effort to prove the American was the earliest inventor by two months.

Marks also provided the reaction of the AIPLA (speaking, apparently, through an anonymous spokesman):

“He had no notebooks. No prayer of proving when he invented the thing,” says McLaughlin …. “So we had to go back and find secondary evidence like Visa card statements that showed when he bought equipment. And a lab technician swore an affidavit saying he had seen the device on a certain date.” Eventually, they proved the inventor had beaten his rivals by two months.

Such experiences show that the US’s current system of relying on notebooks to prove when a device was invented can be commercially harmful, says the American Intellectual Property Law Association.

via US inventors on their marks for race to patent office (emphasis added).

How is this experience “commercially harmful”? The true inventor prevailed in a process meant to reward the true inventor regardless of corporate status.  Is it “commercially harmful” because a small inventor was able to prevent a pair of international corporations from patenting something they weren’t entitled to in the first place? I wonder if the AIPLA cares about inventors themselves, or just the interest of lawyers paid to watch over patent portfolios of large corporations?

In general, supporters of first-to-file responded to criticisms of small inventors by noting the relative lack of interference filings, and the high attorneys fees involved in the process.  In other words, the argument for eliminating interference practice is that interference is (1) expensive, and (2) rarely used.  I would suggest that the first issue flows from the second.

But if that’s the case, then why isn’t anyone suggesting revision to the interference procedure to make it more efficient and less expensive?

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  1. Pingback: Patent Reform Boosters Invent Facts To Combat Real Arguments « Gametime IP - April 7, 2011

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