09 September 2007

Glimmer of Hope for US Patent System

A small step towards patent sanity has been taken:

The House approved the most sweeping changes to United States patent law in more than half a century on Friday in a victory for computer companies like Microsoft and finance companies like Goldman Sachs.


The measure passed by the House would change the rules at the Patent and Trademark Office so patents would go to the first person to file an application, not necessarily the first inventor. That would limit years-long disputes over who was the first to invent new technology and would bring the United States in line with other countries’ patent rules. It would also allow third parties to introduce evidence against applications and would create a system, called post-grant opposition, to challenge new patents.

In litigation, it would limit where patent suits could be filed so that cases are not concentrated in court districts deemed favorable to plaintiffs, create a new way to calculate damages to reflect the contribution of the invention to the overall product and allow immediate appeals of court rulings on the interpretation of patent terms while cases are proceeding.


Anonymous said...

I can see why this would be a popular move. Less ambiguous, etc. However, I am still not sure I like it. Companies/people with the more pro-active lawyers will get patent protection when someone else might have done all the good work, which is rather unfair, especially in the life sciences, with the time scales involved

Glyn Moody said...

Well, I did say it was a *small* step....

I certainly don't think it's perfect - but then the only perfect solution would be to abolish most patents completely (well, maybe not entirely - see below).

I do think it's important that the legislators have accepted that the US patent system needs fixing. Maybe this will be the first move towards a sensible system (i.e. definitely no software patents, business method patents, patents on algorithms, genomic sequences etc.).

I can dream.