For years, we've pointed out how ridiculous it is that our patent system doesn't include an independent invention
defense. It seems rather against the concept of promoting innovation to say that someone who invented something entirely independently should be barred from using his own invention just because someone else invented the same thing slightly earlier. Considering just how many major discoveries are discovered independently by multiple people
, this seems especially troublesome. In fact, various research papers have been written about why an independent invention defense makes a lot of sense
However, beyond just a "defense" on patent claims, we've often pointed out
that independent invention actually should represent pretty good evidence that an invention doesn't meet the criteria for "non-obviousness" to those skilled in the art that is required for a patent. After all, if multiple folks skilled in the art are all coming up with the same invention, it seems to be rather definitive proof that the concept was an "obvious" next step to those skilled in the art. Of course, whenever we bring this up, patent system defenders talk about what a ridiculous idea this is and how it would be a disaster in practice. Unfortunately for them, the actual research
suggests it would actually be quite reasonable.
However, with so many patent attorneys insisting that it's ridiculous that simultaneous or independent invention would be used to prove obviousness, it's interesting to see a patent attorney over at Patently-O point out that it's perfectly reasonable to use simultaneous invention as proof of obviousness
, even though he admits it's "seldom used." Hopefully, that's going to start changing. If the purpose of the patent system is only to protect "new and non-obvious" inventions -- it would seem like de facto evidence of obviousness that others are doing the same damn thing. If you have to keep the patent system at all, such a test for obviousness (rather than just in court cases, as is suggested here) would be a tremendously useful step in the right direction.