For my White Paper, I plan on writing about patent reform in the United States. By 2011, the US Patent and Trademark Office could not keep up with the amount of patents coming in. This was the reason for legislative reform. There was a backlog of just fewer than one million patent applications, with it taking three years for these patents to make it through the system. This bottleneck in the system had the potential to cost the United States billions of dollars due to less innovation. In September of 2011, President Obama signed into law a legislative reform called the America Invents Act, which had been pushed for the past ten years.
Today, the US Patent and Trademark Office is implementing the legislation in a way that allows American businesses and business start-ups to bring their inventions to the marketplace sooner, which will fuel and strengthen the economy through creation of jobs and new innovation. The question I have is, is this reform enough?
The following are the key points I have gathered about the current legislation and how it works:
- Patents will be granted to the party that files the patent first, NOT the party that invents and proves it came up with the idea first
- Fees will be reduced for those of ‘micro entity’ status (less than five previous patent applications, limited income, etc.)
- No change in software patents
- Does not address ‘patent trolls’ (those who issue patents not to invent, but merely to keep others from inventing the same thing)
- No limiting of the ability to pick where a lawsuit is filed
- The United States Patent and Trademark Office will now have fee setting authority and will be able to keep much of what it collects
- A new ability to challenge bad patents using a “post-grant review” process
These new provisions have certainly increased efficiency in the processing of patents. Patent applications today take forty percent less time to receive initial acceptance. There is also a new fast track program that allows for processing within twelve months. The backlog that was once at 750,000 has been reduced to its lowest point in years.
In my opinion, while this reform was certainly a necessary step in the right direction, it does not do enough. The fact that nothing is currently being done to prevent patent trolls is a huge problem. Patents should be used for the greater good of business and society. Entities should not be able to manipulate and take advantage of the laws of government in order to prevent others from competing against them. There must be further legislation. In my paper I will explore various questions and concerns about the reform. For example, in response to the patent troll issue, what if a law was passed giving a time limit on how long an entity could hold a patent without producing a given invention for society? Another issue is that in an ideal world, there would be strict limits on what could be patented in order to prevent patents that are incredibly broad. But in our country today, are ideas such as these possible? As much as government helps, new laws can also hinder. Another potential problem with the current patent reform is the first to file method. Larger companies with more resources and people will be able to apply for their patents in a more timely fashion.
Patent reform currently is moving in the right direction in the United States, but more must be done in order to better society and the business world. Further patent reform could create a level playing field that would create a fair business world and benefit everyone.