Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Berman: Pharma to Blame For Holding Back Patent Reform

Congressman Howard Berman (D-Ca) recently spoke at the opening of the Tech Policy Summit in San Jose, where telecommunications and high-tech speakers gathered to discuss issues ranging from trade agreements to patent rules to Internet traffic. Yesterday's discussions included numerous topics related to patent reform, and included speakers Jon Dudas, Mark Lemley, and Nathan Myhrvold, among others.

A wide number of bloggers from ZDNet and other groups are attending the conference, and have provided some interesting feedback on the positions taken by various speakers:

Mark Lemley

The USPTO backlog is killing the patent system. Add to the fact that a fair portion of patent applications are borderline frivolous (e.g. using laser pointer to exercise a cat), lots of time is needlessly wasted, thus increasing the backlog.

Standards setting organizations need to figure out what a "reasonable royalty" is, and patent infringement settlements need to be more in line with the actual value of the intellectual property.

With the recently invigorated Supreme Court: "It's a question of whether they take a hatchet to the rules or a more measured approach. We are starting to see a swing away from patent owners to the other side of the spectrum."

Nathan Myhrvold

Myhrvold complained that some tech companies are allergic to paying patent-related royalties. "Most tech companies play 'catch me if you can'" (although AutoDesk's CEO Carl Bass later countered that "if companies concerned with innovation infringe on someone else's patents, you can't protect your own").

Market rates for patent royalties need to be established, much like the consumer electronics industry or publishing industry. "Unfortunately, even without people colluding in some way [which could have anti-trust implications], there is not much of a market if you do patent deals without litigation and keep it secret."

Howard Berman

Legislation to overhaul aspects of the patent system could take shape in as few as two or three weeks, and will happen before any copyright reform.

Previous attempts at patent reform died in a crossfire between the technology industry, which broadly supported changes, and the pharmaceutical industry, which opposed them. Berman claims he had been pushing for changes since 2000.

Berman also claimed the pharmaceutical industry relied on its strong ties to the Republican leadership to reject changes to patent law. “The order came from on high, not to move legislation. Rather than a mechanism to work through differences, essentially, it was a sham process, because the [Republican] leadership of the committee was told not to move the bill.”

Berman added that “this is an issue that doesn’t break down on partisan grounds,” and the technology sector’s desire to seek changes in patent laws has “created a groundswell, a strong momentum for reform, to make it the highest priority of our subcommittee.”


See blogging and other coverage on the event:

Tech Policy Summit Blog

ZDNet

TechDirt

The Technology Chronicles

Uberpulse

The 463 Blog

Tech Daily Dose

Funny quote from the 463 Blog: "It took Andrew Noyes [from Tech Daily Dose] 23 hours to get to San Jose; he lost his luggage; but, he is still the best dressed here."

1 Comentário:

Anonymous said...

"a sham process" ?

You bet it is, Mr. Berman.

How about asking american inventors what they really expect from so-called "patent reform".

Always pushing the agenda of the big tech corporations (a.k.a. serial patent infringers) right ?

Is this what a democrat from California is supposed to do ?
And I used to think that Democratic Party stands to protect the interests of a small guy, you know, a little Joe, the garage inventor...
Apparently, not anymore...

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