Monday, October 31, 2011

Rewind patent laws to fast-forward innovation

Darin Gibby article

The patent market, like financial markets, thrives on certainty. When inventors are sure their products will be protected, more people invest in patents and, more importantly, in the technologies they protect. But when patents cannot be understood, are difficult to obtain, or become nearly impossible to enforce, much of the money that would go toward research and development is spent on lawyers. These legal fees drastically increase the barriers to investment for a promising new idea, dulling America’s technological edge. The modern trend of bundling patents into large portfolios for sale on the open market further demonstrates how the patent market currently favors large corporations over the individual entrepreneur.

As a patent attorney, I am constantly meeting hopeful inventors who dream of securing a patent to protect their ideas. They have been told by potential investors that they need a patent before they are willing to invest in their technology. When I explain that a patent will cost upwards of $30,000 and take around five years to obtain, their hopes are dashed. The news only gets worse when I inform them that enforcing a patent is a multi-million dollar proposition. At that point, most simply give up.

In an effort to remedy this problem, President Barack Obama signed into law the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) on Sept. 16, under the auspices that it would “speed up the patent process so that innovators and entrepreneurs can turn a new invention into a business as quickly as possible.” This law, in fact, does the opposite.

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