Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Locke op-ed on patent reform: it's back!

Commerce Secretary Locke suggests in an op-ed in the San Jose Mercury that patent reform is back:

During the past two sessions, Congress has attempted to pass needed reform legislation. Regrettably, these attempts have been unsuccessful. But thankfully, it looks like that's about to change.

Given that the recent patent reform proposals comprise mainly re-warmed NON-quality ideas like opposition, this text from Locke comes across mostly as the ominous catchphrase "They're back" rather than as anything we ought to welcome. One wonders if the large company stakeholders (IT, pharma) have come to some kind of alignment along the lines of alignment of the large stakeholders in health care reform. How will the small inventors fare in this? The university inventors?

[As a footnote, the child actress Heather O'Rourke who spoke the line "They're back" in Poltergeist II in 1986 died in 1988.]

Other text in the op-ed causes one to worry that Locke does not have his arms around the problem:

Meanwhile, the patent laws that govern the examination process date to the 1950s and are greatly outdated. This disconnect has contributed to a lengthy backlog of nearly 800,000 patent applications and a processing time that has soared. Despite the efforts of a talented and dedicated patent office staff, the typical patent application is not processed with finality until almost three years after it is filed, creating uncertainty among innovators and thus slowing these inventions getting to market.

IPbiz notes the Wright Brothers patent was filed in 1903 and issued in 1906. The barcode patent, celebrated by Google on 7 Oct. 09, issued on 7 Oct. 1952 based on a filing date of 20 Oct. 1949, a period of "almost three years." Locke did not quite state the problem accurately.

Locke does not establish cause and effect in writing: What's more, as the patent office has sought to move quickly, the application overload has, at times, led to the issuance of low-quality patents.

It may be, as the character Carol Anne Freeling warned us, they are back, and we ought to be worried. And, as Emerson warned us, the more Gary Locke talks to us of patent quality, the faster we ought to be counting our spoons.


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