Friday, November 26, 2004

Extreme discussion of patent reform

In a discussion of the book by Lerner and Jaffe, Newswise stated the following:

-->Newswise — The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is bogged down with tens of thousands of patent applications, most of them for totally worthless inventions. The PTO grants thousands of patents every year, many of them for completely absurd "inventions" such as a crustless peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, a watch for dogs that runs seven times faster than a conventional watch, and a kit for a snowman complete with a lump of coal and a carrot, to name just a few.<--

The position of the book is summarized:

-->To inject some sanity back into the patent process, Jaffe and Lerner propose that, first, legislators create incentives and opportunities for parties to challenge the novelty of an invention before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office grants a patent. Second, that the PTO provide multiple levels of application review, with examiners devoting successively more time and effort as an application proceeds to higher levels, a way to avoid wasting money on unimportant patents, while taking sufficient care to avoid mistakes where the stakes are high. Finally, in cases involving claims of patent invalidity based on the existence of prior art, replace juries with judges who could call on experts for guidance. The change would give parties threatened by invalid patents a better opportunity to make their case.<--

Of --tens of thousands of patent applications, most of them for totally worthless inventions--, the PTO gets more than one hundred thousand applications yearly. Whether they are for totally worthless inventions is not clear. They have enough perceived value that someone is paying the application fees.

The first point of reform seems related to various proposals for a European-style opposition proceeding to be created in the US. Of the third point, one recalls the judge in the district court of Arizona in the Osram case who set back chemical science over 100 years by doing stoichiometric calculations using atomic number instead of atomic weight. Whether this amounts to a "correction" of the PTO by the court is open to question.


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