Monday, September 10, 2007

Patent Reform Act, H.R. 1908: The [infringer] friendly patent reform

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So, I was thinking of all kinds of titles for this one. Let me first get a few of them out of the way,

"I said we need to 'reform' not 'deform' stupid!"

"Infringing a patent? Now Congress is with you"

"So you think we cannot travel back in time? Just look at where Congress and the USPTO are taking innovation..."

"Surely you jest, Congress!"

"Real men don't innovate"

And then, I saw this by the leader of BIO (short for Biotechnology Industry Organization)

"much more friendly for [patent] infringers"

Seems to be a better title. So, the BIO is opposed to these reforms, big deal you say...wait, even the generics guys are opposed to it. So are several legal beagles (just look online for lawyer blogs), and people from every walk of life, including the Bush administration.

We have all been worried about the need for patent reforms, haven't we? After a long vacation in the summer heat, Congress came back to session and decide to speed things up.

No use in wasting time thinking, strategizing and preventing a downward spiral of capitalism, eh.

After all the USPTO is doing its part (with a flawless final rule that will limit the number of claims and requests for application reviews) to cut down on this maverick innovation, why should other branches of government hold back?

When you are proposing a law, and no one in particular seems to like it , and everyone in general hates it, you may want to take a hint, or two, or three....

Since you may have read some well written articles ridiculing the various badly thought out propositions made by these reforms, I wanted to highlight the one I have the most beef with.

One of the crazy provisions of the new reforms requires that the victim (or the infringee, if you want to be cynical that way) has to prove that the infringer has violated all aspects of a patent to claim compensation.

Also, here is the big laugh, the amounts paid out on the claims will be directly proportional to the impact the infringement has on the product sold through such infringement. If this becomes law, courts will, in future be limited in terms of how much they can hand out by way of judgement.

This is not a reform. This is some Neandarthal attempt at dividing the spoils.

So now there are two motivating energies at work:

Positive - The infringers now have a lot of incentive to go ahead and walk all over your patents. First off, the burden of proof that all of your patent was infringed on, leans a little more heavily on you. Secondly, you will now have to run around with a calculator, trying to work out how much "impact" your patents' infringement had on the infringers' profits....

[If you remember the story of the poor guy who invented and patented wind shield wipers and nearly, literally lost his mind spending the rest of his life trying to get all the big automakers pay, you will understand why this just got a whole lot worse...]

Negative - Well, if you are a small time guy or gal, it is now going to cost more to patent anything, courtesy the new final rule laid down by your friendly neighborhood USPTO. And if you do get one through, it will cost you an arm and leg to defend it. So, you might as well give up...

But see, in the great ying-yang, Congress solved our problems. If patents go away, infringement goes away, ethical issues go away, patent infringement lawsuits go what if innovation also goes away. Innovation is the root cause of all patent evil, anyway.

Some great thinking went into this. And to think, this "reform" was sponsored by someone from California...

Potentially Horrifying Footnote: The above highlighted problems are not the only ones with these reforms....

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