SAN JOSE, Calif. The current debate on patent reform is out of touch with the needs of working inventors, in part because engineers lack a strong voice in Washington D.C., said a serial entrepreneur.
That was the view of Steve Perlman, chief executive of startup OnLive, a videogames-on-demand service that debuted last week. Proposed changes in patent law are out of step with how new products are designed, and engineers should raise their voices on the issue, said Perlman, speaking at the Intellectual Property Symposium here Wednesday (April 1).
"We need a TechNet for engineers," he said, referring to the high tech lobby group of senior high tech executives.
As Silicon Valley has matured it no longer speaks with a single voice on technology policy issues, he said. Groups such as TechNet agree with engineers on some issues such as stock options, but not others such as patent reform, he added.
Perlman criticized the current bill (S.515) working its way through Congress on several grounds including its proposal to shift from first-to-invent to first-to-file.
The provision is intended to bring the U.S. patent system in line with others around the globe. But Perlman said it would force companies to either lose protection or file significantly more applications, overwhelming an already inundated patent office
"Under first-to-file we would have had to apply for as many as 100 patents—a small company can't reasonably do that," he said
The proposed bill does not address the backlogs holding up applications at the patent office, he said.
"I have waited for more than five years for a first office action and in some cases for seven years for a patent to issue," he said. "There's no way to predict the patent system and that kills product planning."
Perlman also criticized the current patent bill for its use of apportionment, a means of calculating damages based on the percentage of a products value an infringed product represents. He listed the benefits of facial imaging technology from his startup Mova that ranged from saving millions in creating special effects for movies to shaving a few dollars off digital lighting and makeup.
Applying apportionment to such an invention "boggles the mind" because inventions are complex and multidimensional, he said.
Perlman's talk came on the same day a trio of U.S. senators posted a compromise amendment to the proposed bill on patent reform. The compromise would strike language requiring apportionment from the bill.
Senators are expected to discuss and possibly vote on the amendment in a session Thursday morning (April 2).