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BusinessWeek Debate: Pass the Patent Reform Act?

Apr 29, 2009

Washington, Apr 29, 2009 -

Pass the Patent Reform Act

The current U.S. patent system is broken. It stifles innovation. Congress needs to pass the Patent Reform Act now. Pro or con?

by Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.)

Contrary to its title, the patent legislation now going through the Senate is not reform, but instead changes the law to benefit a narrow sector of the electronics industry, and trial lawyers. It does not maintain protection for the innovators and inventors but instead undermines their position against foreign and domestic infringers.

Two of the most egregious parts of the legislation are a basic change in patent law that has been fundamental to our system since the early days of our Constitution: the first being the principle that the actual inventor of something has the rights of ownership rather than someone who may not have invented it but managed to file for a patent application first.

The second major problem with the legislation is that it dramatically elongates the process of obtaining clear-cut patent rights. It would open up the opportunity for deep-pocketed corporations to challenge a patent even after it has been issued. This never-ending process obviously helps the big guy by making the little guy much more vulnerable. It makes the system even more complicated and even more expensive than it now is.

by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)

Ingenuity and innovation have been cornerstones of the American economy from the time Thomas Jefferson issued the first patent.

The Patent Reform Act will preserve America’s longstanding position at the pinnacle of innovation. It will establish a more efficient, streamlined patent system that will improve patent quality and limit unnecessary, counterproductive litigation costs, while making sure no party’s access to court is denied.

It has been more than 50 years since Congress significantly updated the patent system. Since then our economy has changed dramatically. No longer is the economy defined only by assembly lines and brick-and-mortar production. In the Information Age, the products and processes that are being patented are outpacing the ability of the patent system to cope.

A patent system developed for a 1952 economy needs to be reconsidered for 21st century realities, while staying true to our constitutional imperative. The patent laws that were sufficiently robust for promoting innovation and economic development are now actually impeding growth, harming innovators, and raising prices on consumers.

The Patent Reform Act promotes innovation and will strengthen our economy. Congress cannot afford to sit by while innovation is held back by outdated laws.

Patent reform is about economic development. It is about American jobs, it is about innovation, and it is about consumers. We need a system that produces high-quality patents, limits counterproductive litigation over those patents, and makes the system more streamlined and efficient.

Now is the time to bolster our role as the world leader in innovation. Now is the time to create jobs at home. Now is the time for Congress to act on patent reform.

Large electronics and foreign corporations will be better able to thwart inventors trying to establish and enforce their patent rights, a boon to the infringers and thieves and a disaster for individual inventors and small companies, as well as the universities and the pharmaceutical and the biotech industries.
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