Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Fairfield County, CT bizjournal on patents

The Fairfield County BizJournal: U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont indicated last month [Dec. 06] he planned to push hard for patent reform when the Democrat takes the gavel of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week [Jan. 07].

Leahy’s committee might address laws to:

+ keep patent disputes out of the court system;

+ tamp down verdict awards;

+ curtail patent “trolls” who purchase patent rights cheaply, then sue deep-pocketed companies for infringement; and

+ award patent rights to whomever files a patent application first, rather than the current U.S. system that bases rights on when "prior art" is established.

IPBiz notes that the BizJournal is misusing the term "prior art." What is at issue in the current patent reform is the current "first to invent" vs. the proposed "first to file." In "first to invent," a patent applicant, in certain circumstances, may present evidence that he/she was first to invent and thereby overcome the priority of someone who filed first at the patent office. This evidence is typically NOT called "prior art."

The BizJournal also noted: The dates that patents are awarded do not reflect current innovation activity --after filing a patent application, it can take years for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to approve it. For instance, it took five years for Wilton residents Marilyn and Stephen Silverman to receive credit for a process they co-developed with a Tennessee resident to assess whether a person is suicidal based on vocal jitters. [IPBiz author LBE grew up in Wilton in Fairfield County.]

The BizJournal obliquely referred to KSR v. Teleflex: The U.S. Supreme Court is currently weighing a case that will decide whether a patent is enforceable on a product -- in this case, adjustable auto pedals -- if it merely combines existing inventions. Fairfield-based General Electric Co. has filed a brief in the case arguing such patents should be allowed.

IPBiz notes the BizJournal misstates the issue in KSR v. Teleflex.


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