For those of you how are interested in following up on the pending patent legislation (as discussed in last month’s AthenaCELI briefing on patents and innovation), here is a good resource. Patently-O: Patent Law Blog has posted a new Congressional Research Service (part of the Library of Congress) report. The report covers the major elements of the proposed patent reform bill, reviews major changes, and analyzes how the specific change would affect particular groups and industries (individual inventors; universities; technology companies; biotech; etc.). The summary of the report follows:
Congressional interest in patent policy and possible patent reform has expanded as the importance of intellectual property to innovation has increased. Patent ownership is perceived as an incentive to the technological advancement that leads to economic growth. However, growing interest in patents has been accompanied by persistent concerns about the fairness and effectiveness of the current system. Several recent studies, including those by the National Academy of Sciences and the Federal Trade Commission, have recommended patent reform to address perceived deficiencies in the operation of the patent regime. Other experts maintain that major alterations in existing law are unnecessary and that the patent process can, and is, adapting to technological progress.
The Patent Act of 2005, H.R. 2795, introduced in June 2005, would work significant legal reforms to the patent system. Among the more notable of these changes are a shift to a first-inventor-to-file priority system; substantive and procedural modifications to the patent law doctrines of willful infringement and inequitable conduct; and adoption of post-issuance opposition proceedings, prior user rights, and pre-issuance publication of all pending applications. Several of these proposals have been the subject of discussion within the patent community for many years, but others are more novel propositions.
Pending legislation attempts to address several issues of concern including the quality of issued patents, the expense and complexity of patent litigation, harmonization of U.S. patent law with the laws of our leading trading partners, potential abuses committed by patent speculators, and the special needs of individual inventors, universities, and small firms with respect to the patent system. In addition, although the existing patent statute in large measure applies the same basic rules to different sorts of inventions, regardless of the technological field of that invention, the patent system is widely believed to impact different industries in varying ways.
The provisions of H.R. 2795 would arguably work the most sweeping reforms to the U.S. patent system since the nineteenth century. However, many of these proposals, such as pre-issuance publication, prior user rights, and oppositions, have already been implemented in U.S. law to a more limited extent. These and other reforms, such as the first-inventor-to-file priority system and elimination of the best mode requirement, also reflect the decades-old patent practices of Europe, Japan, and our other leading trading partners.
Other knowledgeable observers are nonetheless concerned that certain of these proposals would weaken the patent right, thereby diminishing needed incentives for innovation. Some also believe that changes of this magnitude, occurring at the same time, do not present the most prudent course for the patent system. Patent reform therefore confronts Congress with difficult legal, practical, and policy issues, but also with apparent possibilities for altering and possibly improving the legal regime that has long been recognized as an engine of innovation within the U.S. economy.