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Obama's Patent Reform: Improvement or Continuing Calamity?

Mises Daily: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 by

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Mises Academy Webinar: Stephan Kinsella addresses Obama's Patent Reform: Improvement or Continuing Calamity?

It's increasingly recognized that our current patent system is "broken."[1] Billions are paid in ransom to patent aggressors. Patent lawyers are enriched. Patent trolls have emerged. Competitors, like Android smartphones and tablets, are shut down or delayed by entrenched patent oligopolists. While some confused souls argue that patents create jobs and innovation and can even stimulate the economy,[2] more and more people have begun to realize that patents do not foster innovation but rather stifle it.[3]

So it's no surprise that we've seen a chorus of demands for "patent reform."[4] But these proposed reforms do not call for eliminating the patent injunction, for seriously cutting back patent scope, or for reducing the patent term. These are all sacrosanct. As I explained in "Radical Patent Reform Is Not on the Way," mainstream proposals for patent reform merely adjust minor details and leave the essential features of the patent system intact.

What are we to make then of the America Invents Act, signed into law last Friday by President Obama? It's been hailed by some as a major improvement, and reviled by others.[5] 

The patent bar is already buzzing about the new patent law and preparing seminars and explanations,[6] and there have been a number of early criticisms of the patent reform law proffered already.[7]

This Friday's Mises Academy Webinar will discuss the new patent-reform law. Is it a real improvement in the law? Does it make things worse? Why should businesses care? In this timely webinar I will

Mises Academy Webinar: Stephan Kinsella addresses Obama's Patent Reform: Improvement or Continuing Calamity?
  1. summarize the basic problem with patent law from a free-market perspective;
  2. present a series of real patent reforms that could make significant improvement in patent law (short of abolition);
  3. explain and critique the relevant changes made by the America Invents Act;
  4. briefly summarize other imminent IP legislation and treaties on the horizon; and
  5. respond to questions from attendees.

As both proponents and opponents of patent law recognize, these issues are of crucial importance for innovation and our economy. If you are interested in learning about the current direction of patent policy, tune in this Friday.

Notes

[1] See "Chorus Of Mainstream Press Saying The Patent System Is Broken Gets Louder."

[2] See my post "A 'Patent Stimulus' to End the Recession?"

[3] "Top Entrepreneurs Warn Congress: PROTECT IP Will Stifle Innovation & Hurt Job Growth"; "Debate On Software Patents Fails To Convince Silicon Valley That Patents Increase Innovation"; "Gizmodo: The US Patent System Is Killing Innovation; Yet Another Study Finds Patents Do Not Encourage Innovation."

[4] See, e.g., Google's post "Patent reform needed more than ever."

[5] See Kinsella, "Please contact your Senators & ask them to support the Coburn amendment to end fee diversion"; "Patent Fee Diversion and Patent Reform Whining"; "Banksters versus Patent Monopolists." Patent shill Gary Odom (see my post "'Patent Hawk' Sues Microsoft, Former Client, for Patent Infringement"; and his post "In the Pool") says, "The America Invents Act floated into law as a pseudo-jobs-creation bill. It will do no such thing. PTO fees go up 15 percent immediately, which only has a telling negative effect on the inventors who actually create jobs (small companies)."

[6] See, e.g., the Fish & Richardson patent law reform page, which includes

  1. Presentation: "US Patent Law Reform — The 'America Invents Act,'" HR 1249;Download PDF
  2. Presentation: "Patent Reform 2011: The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act";Download PDF
  3. "What you need to know now," provisions that will be effective immediately or shortly after enactment;Download PDF
  4. PTO "Leahy-Smith America Invents Act Implementation" page.

The last 80 pages of the House report, available here, contains a track-changes version of the bill to the existing patent statute, starting at page 89. See also "Guest Post — Defining Prior Art under the Leahy-Smith AIA," by Howard Skaist and Ted Karr, excellent patent attorneys from the Berkeley Law & Technology Group.

[7] See, e.g., Mike Masnick's perceptive comments at Techdirt, in "Patent Reform Official, Along With More Bad Ideas"; "Obama Signs Patent 'Reform' Bill — 'Crustless Sandwich' Still Patented," Wired.