Could Patent Reform Actually Pass This Year?

from the doubtful,-but... dept

Every year for nearly a decade, we hear the same thing each January about how this is the year that "patent reform" will finally pass. And every year it goes nowhere. Then the following January, it comes back, and the proposal is slightly worse than it was the year before (and it was never that good to begin with). The problem, of course, is that we're dealing with a huge number of professions and industries who have grown up around the idea that they absolutely need and/or deserve government monopoly protectionism, even if the actual evidence suggest the system does a lot more harm than good. But, no politician is willing to actually step up and make the changes that are actually necessary to encourage greater rates of innovation. So, instead we get useless proposals that won't actually make the system better at all. For years, the proposals were such that the tech industry were okay with them, but the pharma industry was against them. More recently, the bill's been watered down so much that things have flip-flopped, with the tech industry no longer liking the proposal, and pharma being more open to it.

The latest is that the Senate Judiciary committee has approved some amendments to try to make everyone happy -- including Senator Schumer's surprise amendment that would allow for a pilot program to look at eliminating business method patents. It's nice to see that at least has a chance of moving forward, but the entire bill just seems to have so many bad or just watered-down ideas in it, that it's unlikely to matter much one way or the other. It's certainly not patent reform that fixes any of the real problems with the patent system.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2011 @ 4:49am

    Patents should be good for 7 years. There should be a possibility of a 5 year extension IF the author adds original content/functionality to the patented "device." Just because you again add additional content at the 15 year point does not enable you to extend the patent again. Biotech should not be patentable beyond 5 years. Genomic data and dna sequencing should not be patentable.

    Trademarks should be perpetual but should require a 10 year renewal. If you fail to renew then you lose it. Should your trademark become common use - such as Kleenex, or Frisbee, then you likewise lose it.

    Copyright should be good for 25 years with no ability to extend beyond that.

    All of these enter the public domain upon expiration. Once they enter the public domain they should never be eligible to become protected again. i.e. the law needs to state that you cannot pass new laws to bring public domain works back into copyright/trademark/patented status.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2011 @ 4:55am

      Re:

      Not to mention the patent should make it to product. The majority of patents don't make it to product and hence the majority of patents should automatically be invalidated. If you don't want to sell a product that covers your patents, you shouldn't be allowed to deter others from doing it. Every patent that doesn't make it to product is a bad patent that should have never been granted and that needs to be invalidated at once.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2011 @ 6:55am

      Re:

      A wonderful idea.

      Pharma patents should last less time than it takes to get them through testing and into production. That would be an amazing benefit for everyone except the people spending the hundreds of millions it takes to actually get a drug to market these days. That should really encourage innovation.

      Copyright should be shortened. Of course. Then the Rolling Stones could go out on the next tour called "Stones In The Public Domain". We could also enjoy hundreds of TV stations like TVLand that could take all the TV shows from before 1985 and make a network. That would create piles and piles of innovation.

      Trademarks shouldn't exist at all. Why bother? You spend millions of dollars to create a brand, and suddenly everyone can use it. There would be a huge innovation in the numbers of non-conforming McDonalds restaurants.

      Yes, you have some great plans there. Plenty of innovation for all.

       

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        Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 2nd, 2011 @ 7:31am

        Re: Re:

        "That would be an amazing benefit for everyone except the people spending the hundreds of millions it takes to actually get a drug to market these days."

        Uh, citation needed. And please don't start going on about all the R&D companies are doing that are actually being done at public universities or with taxpayer subsidies. It just makes you look silly....

        "Copyright should be shortened. Of course. Then the Rolling Stones could go out on the next tour called "Stones In The Public Domain". We could also enjoy hundreds of TV stations like TVLand that could take all the TV shows from before 1985 and make a network."

        Wow, we are just FULL of strawmen today, aren't we? How about a real life example or two, not just inane scccaaaarrrry hypotheticals. Unless....am I talking to the ghost of Ronald Reagan? AAAHHHH, apocolypse!

         

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        antimatter3009 (profile), Mar 2nd, 2011 @ 7:57am

        Re: Re:

        I really think patents should be variable length depending on their industry. Software patents, if allowed at all, shouldn't last more than a year or two. Software just moves so quickly that anything more kills innovation. On the other hand, pharma patents should probably last longer because of the huge costs they need to recoup. I still think more than 15 years or so is ridiculous, though.

        Shorter copyright makes perfect sense. Why are we worried if the Stones can keep making money off 50 year old music? Copyright should be encouraging new art, not encouraging artists to sit on their decades old art. I'd be ok with 15-20 years even, but anything longer is actively discouraging new works IMO, which hurts everyone.

        As for TVLand, they could still have a station playing old content. In fact, having that content in the public domain would lower their costs. If they can't make a profit because the content is available elsewhere, then why are we worried about them? Lots of businesses fail, why do they get a free pass? If the content is available elsewhere then they're not providing any additional value, so what's the point?

        Finally, I disagree with you on trademark. It should exist, and if a company doesn't think it's worth creating their brand they don't have to have a trademark. That's up to them. But trademark actually seems to work pretty well even in its current state. I like the idea of 10 year (or so) renewals, but that's a fairly minor tweak.

         

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        TheStupidOne, Mar 2nd, 2011 @ 8:11am

        Re: Re:

        "Then the Rolling Stones could go out on the next tour called "Stones In The Public Domain"."

        Yup, and since so many people love the Rolling Stones they'd make a killing on tickets, merchendice, and CD/DVD/Blurays even though anybody could listen to the original recordings for free.

        "We could also enjoy hundreds of TV stations like TVLand that could take all the TV shows from before 1985 and make a network."

        Absolutely, then we could enjoy these bits of our culture that have been dropped into obscurity and new content production would have to actually be better than the reruns of decades past. And if you don't like them, don't turn them on.

        "Trademarks shouldn't exist at all."

        You lost me on that one ... the OP didn't say anything like that. Just that trademarks should have to be renewed. I see nothing wrong with that since it will keep long disused trademarks from rearing their ugly heads to set up roadblocks for new innovative companies.

         

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    The eejit (profile), Mar 2nd, 2011 @ 5:28am

    Add in a patent-fraud prevention clause, to avoid companies using patents-for-hire-in-suits becoming a viable business model.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2011 @ 5:43am

    Patent Abolition FTW

    Just keep on fiddling with it, Americans. The Chinese seem to have finally got the message that government-granted monopoly privileges are a recipe for economic disaster. And just looky, their economy has grown bigger than Japan (who have not got the message). They are number two, now. Guess who is number one? Yup, you are. Not for long.

    You never know, maybe India might get the message sometime soon. However, the chances of that happening are slight. Indian politics seems to have a higher percentage of outright crooks and deluded idiots than most. But if they did, what would we see? China at number one, then India, then USA. How the mighty would have fallen.

    The patent system is a conspiracy against the rest of us by the patent bar. It has never achieved its ostensible purpose (to promote the progress, etc.), and it never will. If something has a higher cost than its benefit, then STOP DOING IT.

     

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      The eejit (profile), Mar 2nd, 2011 @ 8:45am

      Re: Patent Abolition FTW

      You never know, maybe India might get the message sometime soon. However, the chances of that happening are slight. Indian politics seems to have a higher percentage of outright crooks and deluded idiots than most. But if they did, what would we see? China at number one, then India, then USA. How the mighty would have fallen.

      At least the Indians are honest crooks. Not like those brigands you call Congresscritters.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2011 @ 9:25am

      Re: Patent Abolition FTW

      Ahh, ye who reads the headlines and doesn't actually check what is going on.

      Japan has 127 million people. China as 1.3 billion. China as a total economy just passed Japan. However, their people each generate only 9% of what the Japanese do on average.

      So the only think that China has going for it is a large, cheap workforce. On a comparative basis, they are still very, very far behind (and they know it).

      Oh yeah, that and of course you know that China is rapidly moving towards IP laws, patents, copyright, and the like? It's because they want to have a grown up economy, not just to be a sweat shop to the world.

       

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    Kris B, Mar 2nd, 2011 @ 9:35am

    Seriously disgusting patents

    My biggest patent concern is on agricultural patents. Monsanto has a patent on agricultural products (grain, corn, working on pigs) and is taking measures to destroy natural crops and ruin local farmers where they operate.

    2nd would be pharma patents (as the Monsant case proves, it's only a matter of time before homeopathic products become GMO and are patentable with the same issues)

    3rd would be tech patents in the case of large corporations buying up smaller competition and shelving ideas that they might develop and sell later (which falls under the no use - actual product discussions above).

    I never thought I would say this, but copy China...doh!

     

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    angry dude, Mar 2nd, 2011 @ 1:11pm

    How many of you punks have a patent in your name ?

    Huh ?

    None would be my guess

    Get one first, see how hard it is to get in the first place and then even harder to commercialize

    Then you'll sing a different song

     

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    staff, Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 8:10am

    agree

    "it comes back, and the proposal is slightly worse than it was the year before (and it was never that good to begin with)"

    Small entities agree with you. Shocked?

    Just because they call it “reform” doesn’t mean it is. Patent reform is a fraud on America. What it will do is help large corporations maintain their monopolies and kill their small entity and startup competitors (which is exactly what they intended it to do) and with them the jobs they would have created. According to recent studies by the Kauffman Foundation and economists at the U.S. Census Bureau, “startups aren’t everything when it comes to job growth. They’re the only thing.” This bill is a wholesale slaughter of US jobs.

    Please see http://truereform.piausa.org/ for a different/opposing view on patent reform.
    http://docs.piausa.org/2011PatentReform/

     

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    TruthSeeker, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 9:44pm

    Patents are bad!!!

    Software patents are the most bogus!!! I'm software engineer and the things they try to patent is crazy and stupid. Look the fact is if you get smart people in a room and give them problem to solve they will solve it. So what's the point of the stupid software patents???
    Next I hear they are going to patent 1+1 hahahah. The US
    government is not smart to know that any software patent is bad patent. America is greed plain and simple!!!

     

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