Sour Grapes
Of course we're Fair and Balanced!


U.S. Patent Office reform?

It's beginning to look like we might get some meaningful and long-overdue reform of the Patent Office [thanks to Michael Geist's Internet Law News].

The U.S. patent system could be inching closer to an overhaul long desired by the technology industry.

Just before departing for their summer recess on Thursday, Utah Republican Orrin Hatch and Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, who serve as chairmen of the U.S. Senate's intellectual-property panel, introduced a 45-page bill that proposes a number of changes to the way American patents are awarded and challenged....

Called the Patent Reform Act of 2006, the measure followed two years of hearings, meetings and debate, the senators said. It bears a number of similarities to a bill offered last summer by Texas Republican Lamar Smith in the House of Representatives.

Specifically, it would shift to a "first to file" method of awarding patents, which is already used in most foreign countries, instead of the existing "first to invent" standard, which has been criticized as complicated to prove....

The bill would also establish a "postgrant opposition" system that would allow outsiders to dispute the validity of a patent before a board of administrative judges within the Patent Office, rather than in the traditional court system. The idea behind such a proceeding... is to stave off excessive litigation....

In addition, the Hatch-Leahy bill would place new restrictions on the courts where patent cases could be filed—an attempt at rooting out "forum shopping" for districts known for favorable judges. It would also curb the amount of damages for winners of infringement suits. Perhaps most notably... courts would have to calculate the royalties owed by infringers based solely on the economic value of the "novel and nonobvious features" covered by the disputed patent, not on the value of the product as a whole....

In case anyone needs to be persuaded that there are serious problems with the current system, I offer Patent #6,368,227 ("A method of swing [sic] on a swing is disclosed, in which a user positioned on a standard swing suspended by two chains from a substantially horizontal tree branch induces side to side motion by pulling alternately on one chain and then the other") granted to a 5-year-old Minnesotan on 9 April 2002.

Blog home
Blog archives