Patent Reform: Fantasy or Reality?


Patent Reform is an issue that has plagued the patent community for quite some time.  Will it actually ever happen or is it eternally on hold?  Surprisingly, the Patent Office and it’s deficiencies have gotten some well deserved attention in the media and in Congress during the last week.  Will this attention actually result in Congressional action on Patent Reform during the fall term?  Two of our Practice Center Contributors, Scott Mckeown and Gene Quinn, have passed along articles discussing the recent events and what if anything it may mean for Patent Reform.

Economy Recovery Platform Paving The Way For Patent Reform?

Written by Scott Mckeown (partner at Oblon Spivak and our newest Practice Center Contributor)

With Congress on summer hiatus, and significant election uncertainty coming in the Fall, Patent Reform efforts are seemingly on hold (again). Still, last week, the USPTO was able to secure an additional $139 million in funding. H.R. 5874 permits the USPTO to retain $139 million in fees collected from patent applications and patent maintenance fees for fiscal year 2010 “salaries and expenses.”

Senator Leahy, a backer of S.515, in passing the new PTO funding bill took the opportunity to emphasize the importance of the this perenially pending legislation, noting that more needs to be done to modernize and improve our patent system, which is a crucial component of our economic recovery… This bill [the S. 515 manager’s amendment] will provide the legal structure we need to allow our inventors to flourish. It will improve our economy and create jobs without adding a penny to the deficit.

The concept of patent reform is increasingly popping up in the news media as of late, perhaps as a sign of the White House PR machine attempting to sell the reform legislation as an economic stimulus that does not raise taxes.

The CBS video below implies an economic impact to the PTO pendency issue. CBS Video on USPTO Pendency

Also, see the New York Times article of last week selling changes to the patent system as a form of economic stimulus (here)

Better Late Than Never: Major Media Tunes Into Patent Crisis”

Written by Gene Quinn‘s (of IPWatchdog and Practice Center Contributor)

Straight from the “it’s about time” department comes breaking word that the so-called popular press are finally identifying the most under reported news story of this recession.  The United States Patent and Trademark Office is foundering and it needs more money in order to do its job.  That alone ought to be newsworthy, but add the fact that the Patent Office is the one agency of government with the ability to recognize assets out of whole cloth and have industry organically grow as a direct result and without ANY taxpayer dollars.  The fact that the Patent Office can without any taxpayer dollars directly influence and creation of new, high paying jobs makes it virtually criminal that the elite press, who has reported on virtually every angle of this recession, has ignored the engine that could get us out of this mess.

Perhaps the press is not enamored with the fact that there is an agency of the federal government that does not operate thanks to any Congressional handouts, but rather is a fee for service enterprise.  Perhaps the capitalism and market driven economics that suggests is something that many would rather ignore in favor of other stories.  But the fact remains, the Patent Office is the engine of our nation’s high tech economy and thanks to inadequate oversight, bad choices by previous leadership and constant raiding of Patent Office fees to pay for unrelated government initiatives means that our leaders have turned a blind eye to innovation.  Despite their lip service to innovation and job creation, politicians seem to year after year leave the Patent Office under funded and incapable of satisfying its purpose.  But thankfully CBS did a 2 minute and 36 second segment on the crisis this past weekend!

Read Quinn’s entire article here.

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