Small Inventors Complain About Patent Reform — Miss The Point
from the it's-about-innovation dept
We’ve been discussing patent issues quite a bit lately, because we think it’s an extremely important issue facing anyone trying to innovate. Unfortunately, too many are positioning the question of patent reform as being about “big companies” vs. “small inventors.” That’s not the issue at all (and, amusingly, people have accused us of being mouthpieces for both sides). The latest, though, is a group of small inventors who are complaining about the latest attempt at patent reform. We agree with them that the latest proposal for patent reform will make the system worse, but for very different reasons. The small inventors are worried that they won’t be able to get injunctions against companies that infringe on patents (something the Supreme Court is also looking into). However, companies that are actually producing products that potentially involve hundreds of patents point out how ridiculous it is if they accidentally infringe (sometimes because the idea is so obvious they never thought anyone would have a patent on it) that they should be completely forced to stop selling the product. However, the question of injunctive relief is perhaps the least of the problems facing the patent system. The real issue, though, isn’t “big companies” vs “small inventors” but going back to the core of the patent system: promoting “the progress of science and useful arts.” That has nothing to do with big companies or small inventors — and a good patent policy should focus only on what public policy is most likely to promote innovation — not whether it hurts “small inventors” or “big companies.” Right now, unfortunately, the current proposal doesn’t help at all. If anything, it should only burden the patent system more by encouraging more companies to file for patents sooner (switching to a first to file system). The reform plan is trying to cure the symptoms rather than getting at the cause of the problem.