As a computer scientist who regularly participates in research initiatives, I would like to express my support for the patent reform proposals. My support for the proposals stems from the fact that the old system is beaten up and has not adjusted to technological advancements over the past six decades. Under the current system, researchers have continuously been frustrated in their attempts to file for new patents and in many instances, patents are approved by illegitimate persons. Under this system, inventors can file for breach of their intellectual property regarding patents even if they never applied for such a patent. This has often acted as a loophole for a company or individual to have an unfair advantage over the real owner(s) of the patent. The new system will avert such incidences and, in addition, will reduce backlogs of patent applications, promote innovation, create a significant number of jobs, and fast track the patent application process.
Currently, patents are approved on a “first to invent” basis which gives priority to the first inventor, rather than the first applicant. Under this system, an invention is deemed to belong to the first person who put the invention into practice and not the one who applied for it. Hence, it is very easy for a person to steal an idea and use it to come up with an invention, then claim a patent for the idea. When passed by the house, this system will be replaced by the “first to file” system which will give priority to the first applicant, rather than the first inventor. This system could generate several advantages for innovators and entrepreneurs. Under the proposed system, when an inventor comes up with an idea and applies for a patent, then any subsequent inventions using the same idea could be considered an infringement on intellectual property. Hence, patent reform is a matter of urgency.
The last reforms on the patent system were implemented more than half a century ago, in 1952 (Goldman, para. 3). Over time, the system has become creaky and has buckled under the weight of numerous backlogs with patents taking too long to get approval, and ironically at times denying legitimate inventors of their patents, causing huge losses, particularly where products have already been introduced into the market. Besides, the majority of countries in the world have adopted the “first to file” system and the US is only among the very few countries still stuck with the old system. Therefore, shifting into the “first to file” system will be a major step toward joining the rest of the world especially with regards to international patent infringements. The country will be able to compete effectively in the global marketplace. This is just one of the major reasons why I am expressing my support for the proposed reforms.
When the country succeeds in implementing the above-mentioned reforms, several economic benefits will be observed. Some corporations and individuals have been taking advantage of the loopholes that exist in the current patent laws to have an unfair advantage over their competitors or genuine inventors. For instance, a company may use the law to delay a competitor’s introduction of a new product into the market by alleging that the invention infringes on its patents though it never applied for any patents regarding the said invention. However, under the proposed system, such an occurrence will be unlikely as a full patent will be awarded to the first entity that files for it. This will promote innovation, spur economic growth, and create job opportunities. The patent bill will also promote competitiveness since it will reinforce the ability of third parties to raise questions regarding weak patent applications and assess those that have already been accepted.
The new patent bill could make inventors want to publish their findings even quicker. Under the current system, the delay does not matter since the patent is awarded to the first inventor, rather than the first person to file for it. Once a person makes an invention, he/she would be sure of the patent as long as proof of invention can be shown, even if someone else had filed for the patent earlier. However, this will change under the proposed system. Besides, researchers would have to present their findings more defensively so that they can beat off similar patents and this will further contribute to competitiveness.
A third benefit of the proposed system is that it would reduce backlogs in patent applications. Currently, there are more than 700,000 patent applications awaiting approval and an average three-year waiting period for applications (Goldman, para. 4). Each of these patents could create an industry and offer employment in the same way laser technology created numerous job opportunities. For an economy that is recovering from a financial crisis, a fast-tracking patent application would be welcome for most people and would greatly aid economic recovery efforts.
Due to the aforementioned benefits of the “first to file” system, I would like to request all congressional representatives to vote affirmatively when the bill comes to the floor. The President should increase awareness of the benefits of the proposed reforms to all representatives so that the bill can go through smoothly.
Goldman, David. Obama patent czar: ‘Millions of jobs lying in wait’. CNN Money, 2011. Web.