Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tensions Rise as Patent Reform Hits "The Final Stretch"

On Monday, various companies, industry groups and universities are reported to have met to discuss the Patent Reform Act, where Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, appeared at the meeting. Hewlett Packard's GC Mike Holston, who spoke with Reuters recently about the meeting, commented that "we're 95 percent of the way there . . . we're in the final stretch." The bill is slated to go before the Senate in February, according to an aide to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Nevertheless, some sticking points remain: (1) apportionment of damages, (2) venue, (3) post-grant reviews, and (4) inequitable conduct.

Read the Reuters story here (link).

In the meantime, commentary criticizing the Patent Reform Act seems to be popping up more often lately:

Gernot Pehnelt, "U.S. Has Best Patent System, so Why Fix It?" (link) - "'Virtually all of the inventions which ultimately hastened economic development and lifted living standards - especially new technologies and manufacturing processes - were developed in societies with strong intellectual-property protections,' according to a 2005 report, 'The Economic Value of Intellectual Property.' U.S. patent reform will only weaken international protection of intellectual property."

Alexander Poltorak, "U.S. Can't Afford to Mar Innovation"(link) - "If lawmakers strengthened copyrights, one form of intellectual property protection, why are they now moving to weaken patents? We are at the mercy of deep-pocketed lobbyists playing trick-or-treat with legislators in Washington. But can we afford to turn back the clock on innovation?"

TMCnet, "Inventors Cry Foul Over Patent Reform" (link) - "Patent history is littered with instances of inventors becoming embroiled in ruinous litigation. The engineer Bob Kearns, inventor of the intermittent windscreen wiper, spent 30 years in dispute with the motor industry after his idea was used without payment. Edwin Armstrong, inventor of FM radio, was left penniless after a 12-year patent battle over the invention with his former employer RCA, and in 1954 he committed suicide."

Even the patent blogs are heating up as of late - Dennis at Patently-O posted yesterday that "the proposed patent reforms now being debated by the Senate do virtually noting to address these serious problems and instead potentially cause harm to the current regime." This prompted the crusading Troll Tracker to mockingly respond: "Yeah, let's not 'cause harm to the current regime' and 'destabilize' this wonderful system of ours." Shortly thereafter, the Patent Prospector jumped into the fray.

Fasten your seatbelts - February is going to be one bumpy ride . . .

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