For more than five years, the U.S. Congress has tried to forge a compromise on how to update the U.S. patent system. What follows are views representing two sides in the debate.
By Gary Griswold, chairman, Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform
There is a jobs and economic stimulus bill pending in Congressthe Patent Reform Act of 2010, also known as S.515.
Recently, Senators Patrick Leahy (D, Vt.) and Jeff
Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform
Sessions (R, Ala.) announced an agreement to move the much-needed patent reform bill to the Senate floor. The nearly 50 companies in our coalition from a wide variety of industry sectors support the manager's amendment to S. 515 because we believe invention is a key ingredient to the nation's economic recovery and job creation.
In the recent patent reform efforts, policy differences existed between various stakeholders. But this year is different because several decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit have had far-reaching effects on patent law and practice. The leaders of patent reform in the Congress have skillfully bridged the differences on the remaining key issues.
The Leahy/Sessions manager's amendment to S. 515 earns high marks because it will speed the processing of patents that should be issued by establishing a simpler, objectively-based, transparent patent system. It will also provide a mechanism to promptly and inexpensively eliminate those patents that should not have been issued.
The amended bill would create a new, carefully crafted, time-limited, post-grant review procedure while tightening the existing inter partes reexamination procedure to better protect patentees against harassment. It would also rein in the subjective elements in the existing patent laws, those that depend on assessing a party's state of mind at the time of an alleged infringement or the time of filing a patent application and that add unnecessary expense and uncertainty. And importantly, it would strengthen the capabilities of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and bring the United States system into much greater harmony with the rest of the world.
There is clear precedent with patent reform spurring economic growth. In 1982, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit was established to bring clarity to the disparate interpretations of the patent laws emanating from the various Circuit Courts of Appeals and thereby provide certainty to manufacturers and investors. Economists have linked the court's creation to increased R&D expenditures and the strong growth of the 1980s.
The economyand the patent systemneeds a shot in the arm. In recent years, due to funding shortages and problems at the USPTO, an inventor's path through the office has not been smooth or timely. But given the USPTO's new leadership and the adoption of the manager's amendment to S. 515, all inventorsand the publicwill benefit from an invigorated patent system.