Here Comes Patent Reform — Again

February 24th, 2011
Senate to Vote on Patent Reform Bill Soon (Maybe)
Every few years, the subject of patent reform comes up.There is little question that significant reforms are needed to the U.S. patent system. Many articles have been written about the subject and what needs to be changed. See our article here.
The changes that have been proposed during the past few years are controversial and illustrate the difficulties in finding a solution that satisfies enough stakeholders to get a bill passed. Some stakeholders want the patent litigation and damages rules changed, some want the rules of inventorship to be changed, some want the mechanisms for granting patents to change to improve patent quality.  All of these sound laudable, but at the core are the basic questions — should the country have a strong patent system?  Or not?  And if so, what is the best and balanced way to reform the system?  Right now, there is too much uncertainty in the system for many stakeholders.
On Feb. 16, 2011, Sen. Harry Reid announced that the U.S. Senate will vote on patent reform after returning from recess, as reported in this article and elsewhere.
The different stakeholders in the patent system have significantly different interests that will make any comprehensive bill difficult for some vested interests to swallow.   The interests of “big IT” companies such as Microsoft, HP, IBM, Apple, etc. differ from those of “big pharma”, which differ from those of small companies and individual inventors — which of course differ from the many foreign companies that file and obtain patents in the U.S.   Balancing the varied interests is no easy feat.
One of the biggest issues, in this writer’s view, is that several provisions in the most recently proposed legislation are the subject of heavy lobbying by certain well-heeled stakeholders.  As might be expected, Congress seems inclined to swing in the direction of those who lobby the most, without really paying attention to positions that have equal validity but may not be as heavily lobbied.   Congress should offer a real, extensive, thorough set of hearings on patent reform to allow the stakeholders to present their competing views before rushing to a one-sided reform.  This is what should happen, but for some reason does not seem to be on the radar screen.
Stay tuned to the news for further developments with patent reform.

This information is presented for educational purposes and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Opinions expressed are those of the author and not of Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP; see disclaimer at Contact John Harris for more information at