Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama Transition Team Member Is No Fan of the U.S. Patent System

Yesterday, it was reported by Condé Nast Portfolio that President elect Barack Obama is setting up agency review teams for his transition to the White House. The teams will be responsible for reviewing all the major U.S. government departments, advise the Obama administration on policy prior to inauguration day, and keep the new administration's nominees prepped and informed as they make their way through the confirmation process in Congress.

One of the team members is Reed Hundt, who was Bill Clinton's FCC Chair from 1993 through 1997. Hundt is slated to work on the agency review team in charge of international trade and economics agencies. Since his stint at the FCC, he has taught at Yale and written several books about information politics and U.S.-China economic relations.

Here is what Hundt had to say in an op-ed piece in Forbes magazine on Janury 30, 2006:

America's patent system is a mess . . . The U.S. ought to chuck this 18th-century relic and start all over again. Here's what the ideal system would look like.

First, we should slash the number of patents granted each year by 90%. In 2004 the U.S. Patent &Trademark Office issued 165,000 patents. Sixteen thousand is more like an optimal number. This should be easy to accomplish because most technology should not be patentable.

* * *

Second, we need to spend more money on the system. The budget of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office is $1.5 billion. That ought to be tripled to $4.5 billion . . . We don't want grossly overworked professionals trying to figure out whether specific algorithms used to refresh the pixels on a computer monitor screen ought to be patented.

* * *

Third, we should introduce an element of privatization into this public system. Firms ought to be able to pay for fast-track patent approval and for the ability to challenge a patent after it's been issued. Currently it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to file and prosecute a patent application. For a set dollar amount--say, $500,000--a firm ought to be able to buy a guarantee that its patent application will be reviewed and accepted or rejected within one year. The average application now takes 29 months to be processed.

* * *

Fourth, all patent case awards should be forward looking and linked to lost sales. In other words, plaintiffs who win patent-infringement challenges should be able to enjoin only future competition. They shouldn't reap rewards from past violations . . . If we can radically revamp our patent system, we'll be much more effective at the international bargaining table. We have a horribly expensive system, with huge backlogs and a daunting litigation risk. No wonder the Chinese don't want to adopt it. Let's get rid of it and start from scratch.


Read Hundt's op-ed in its entirety here.

4 Comentários:

Anonymous said...

From this editorial:
" The firm that produces the gizmo that puts a technology to the best use and most effectively brands it should earn the most money, not the firm that claims to be first with an idea but couldn't execute it."
----
So "branding" technology is more important than inventing technology.
This is a CLEAR message then that:
a) America's youth should study marketing instead of hard sciences - this trend is what got us into this mess in the FIRST place;
b ) an investor would have to be CRAZY to invest in technology which can easily be copied - for example, a new technology that would break America's oil addiction. After all, a large "successful" company like Exxon-Mobil could just "brand" this technology and earn all of the rewards.

Anonymous said...

Well, if he's reasonable, he can be persuaded otherwise.

morton c said...

Just based on the 4 suggestions quoted here, this guy seems like someone who spouts off a lot of things he's heard without regard to whether they make sense either individually or together. For example, he wants to issue one-tenth the patents but triple the USPTO budget? He wants to give the rich corps. a way to get their patents by paying for them and leaving independent inventors completely in their dust. And while saying that patent awards should be "linked to lost sales" he opines that when a patent-holder wins, they shouldn't get damages for past violations?
Utter nonsense... might as well get the Mad Hatter to guide us on this.

Matthew Cain said...

Matthew Taylor, former adviser to Tony Blair, has some interesting advice on handling the transition into power: http://www.matthewtaylorsblog.com/politics/a-new-dawn/

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