Originally posted at Patent Connections:
Should America adopt German-style utility model patents?
Speaking about patent reform as the founder and spokesman for American Innovators for Patent Reform (AMINN), Alexander Poltorak (also the owner of General Patent Corporation)offered some interesting insight into his suggestions for reform:
Q: What changes would you like to see to the patent system?
A: This patent reform debate is a huge missed opportunity to reform the system. The system is antiquated in the sense that the same patents are awarded to inventions of different quality. The current system does not reward breakthrough invention. A minor tweak to some kitchen gadget is granted the same patent as a major development.
Greater inventions need more time to be recouped. For example, new drugs should be given a longer patent life span to allow companies to recoup expenses. In most countries, they use a multi-tier system, and a junior form of patent expires sooner.
In essence, Poltorak identifies the fact that an improved can opener receives essentially the same patent protection as a cure for cancer as one of the problems with the current patent system. So far as I am aware, no one so far has suggested that the United States adopt a “utility model” system, such as the ones that are common in Asian countries.
Although similar, there are key differences between a typical utility model and a patent. Utility models tend to carry a shorter term and are subject to less strenuous examination (if any). On the differences between utility model and patent protection in China, attorney James Hayes notes:
[T]he value in having a utility model verses an invention patent in terms of enforcement lies in the ability to enforce the utility model patent sooner. Therefore, the utility model option is particularly attractive in technologies, such as electronics, which require a longer time to issue as an invention patent. Also, if a corporation’s inventions would be obsolete in 10 years, the utility model patent is a viable alternative.
But in the United States, all inventions are treated equal, mostly because that’s the way we’ve always done it.
Alexander Poltorak is listed as an inventor on numerous US patents and applications in various fields ranging from gene compositions to e-commerce.