Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Patent reform

Priti Radhakrishnan and Tahir Amin of Mercury News write with their opinion on patent reform. It's a good read. I'd like to highlight this section of the article:
If America hopes to dig out of the recession, it must start innovating again -- truly innovating. Residents of Silicon Valley who have capitalized on creativity and high-tech innovation know this better than anyone. And the key to unlocking American ingenuity rests, in large part, on reforming the U.S. patent system, which now has a backlog of more than 700,000 applications.

In March, the Senate, in a rare 95-5 vote, passed landmark patent reform legislation, the America Invents Act, or AIA. The House introduced a companion bill with a rare showing of bipartisan support.

Unfortunately, the act fails to address the crux of the problem, particularly for pharmaceuticals: raising the bar on patent quality, so true inventions, not pseudo inventions, are awarded the privileges of patent protection.

To do this, Congress must harness the power of "citizen review," which is employed effectively in many parts of the world. Citizen review permits knowledgeable experts across all technical fields to weigh in on the merits of a new application and submit pertinent information while it is still under review and also after a patent has been issued. This helps patent examiners to more effectively sort worthy inventions from unworthy ones.
I like the idea of "citizen review". Implemented correctly, this could help eliminate (or at least reduce) the patent awards for "software" patents. The obviousness test would be helped by industry experts helping to determine what might be "obvious" to someone working in the field - rather than what seems "obvious" or not to a patent examiner, who may not be as familiar with the technology in question.

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