Well Congress is actually moving forward with its plan to reform the patent system, and (as you might expect) it's a mixture of good and bad ideas. It basically follows the recommendations of the patent office we discussed a couple of months ago. The really bad idea is that they want to make the patent system more like the rest of the world, where the patent goes to the first person who files rather than the first person who comes up with the concept. There's a logistical reason for doing this. It's obviously a lot easier to figure out who was the first to file, rather than the first to invent -- but it's not reasonable if you're really trying to encourage innovation (remember, that's what the patent system is supposed to do). All this really does is give everyone the incentive to file for any idea as quickly as possible, without actually exploring it and seeing if it's really innovative. That overloads the patent system. Also, if someone else came up with the idea before someone filed, then you have to question how "non-obvious" the idea really is. If patents are only supposed to go to non-obvious ideas, how can anyone justify giving a patent to a product that's already been invented? The second idea is to make it easier to challenge a patent after it's been granted or after infringement claims are made. This is a start -- as a patent dispute system really is needed. However, why isn't there a system to dispute a patent before it's granted? That would help clear up the issue before it becomes a problem and let examiners focus on the real inventions, rather than things with prior art or that should be considered obvious.
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