The U.S. Congress has passed a supposedly sweeping patent reform bill, designed to “ensure that inventors large and small maintain the competitive edge that has put America at the pinnacle of global innovation,” according to Democratic Senator Pat Leahy. There’s only one small problem, this bill doesn’t actually do anything of the sort, and it could possibly do the opposite, making it more challenging if not impossible for the actual inventors, large and especially small, to benefit from their own creations.
At principle issue is a change in the patent process that altered the “first to invent” requirement into a “first to file” system. Under the new system, once President Obama signs it as he undoubtedly will, it will no longer matter who actually invents something. All that will matter is who files the application first. How does that protect inventors and spur innovation? It strains credibility to believe this does anything but open up actual inventors to even less protection than before.
The patent process is a lengthy and expensive one. For a small inventor, it is frequently necessary to raise funds to even enter the process. In this atmosphere, where the inventor has no protection prior to filing at all, how do you go about doing that? You can’t reveal your invention because whoever you show it to can simply cut you out, rip off your idea and file on their own, soon to be all perfectly legal.
Whatever else may be in this legislation is totally irrelevant, the first to file rule completely destroys any protections for actual creators. What would I, as a small independent inventor, have as motivation to invent something when I would need outside funding to patent my idea, and could very conceivably get legally screwed because someone else stole it and filed the application before me? If I have no protections at all prior to paying Uncle Sam for them, my and every other inventor’s efforts become meaningless.
This act is touted as being able to create jobs, as well. On that score, it just might. Industrial espionage is certain to increase, as well as large corporations creating entire divisions designed to replicate other people’s ideas and generate applications in the new race to the patent office. I guess the innovation Leahy was talking about was large, deep pocketed organizations innovating new, faster and more unique ways to rip people off, all now under the cover of law.
This bill only serves to make inventors secondary to paper pushers. And it benefits companies with the money to hire large numbers of people to handle these replications and application processing. The little guy, who they’re so fond of talking about in glowing terms, gets screwed royally.
But then, what else should we expect from a government who’s every action benefits large corporate interests over anyone and everyone else. And the way things are going, when these corporations do create these idea swiping mills, they’ll likely be staffed overseas by people making 50 cents a day.