Our top 5 patent reform wishes for the New Year

BY CCIA Staff
January 6, 2010

It happens like clockwork, every New Year. We all make those resolutions to change for the better in the coming year. Some resolve to go to the gym more; others pledge to quit smoking or finally get organized.

Here at Innovation Policy Post, we keep our focus on the important things in life, like enacting genuine patent reform! New blog, renewed resolutions…
We have a feeling this is going to be a banner year. Here are the top 5 things we’re hoping to see in 2010:
1. An end to the abuse by patent trolls
Imagine you’re an innovator. You spend your days plugging away, attempting to build the next great product that will stimulate the economy and benefit society. When your big day finally comes and your product ships—you get sued for patent infringement. And not even by a company that makes these sorts of products. You get sued by a patent troll that does nothing but buy up patents for the purpose of suing honest businesses.

You probably wouldn’t be too happy about it, would you? These abuses happen daily, and it’s about time we started making a bigger deal about it.

If patent trolls are finally held accountable for their actions, it will lead nicely to our second wish…

2. A renewed culture of innovation

Okay, envision you’re an innovator again. And you no longer have to worry about getting punished by patent trolls for your vision and creativity. The days of you having to check the books to make sure you’re not infringing on some broad, obscure patent are in the past. Think you might be more likely to come up with exciting new products with all that pressure off your back? We do.

3. Increase in the standard of patent quality

Wouldn’t it be silly if you could patent a snorkel meant for your toilet? Oh wait,you can.

How about if you could patent a dog house that can be strapped to your shoulders so as to walk around with it? Okay, looks like you can do that too.

Well, surely there’s no way you can patent a diaper for your horse. Seriously?

While these examples fall more on the side of ridiculousness, the extremely low standard of patent quality in this country can also be used to patent overly broad ideas. This, in turn, can benefit trolls who claim to have patented well-documented inventions such as bar codes or podcasts (more to come). We need to get serious about what qualifies as a legitimate patent.

4. Make patents play nice with technology standards

Technology standards are prime targets for patent trolling. By holding up a standard, a patentee can hold hostage all the value that consumers and producers get out of standards like WiFi, or the MPEG and JPEG file formats [More on that here – PDF]. By one estimate, Americans pay $20 to $30 morefor a digital television due to IP rights built into DTV standards. “Being infringed” should not be a business model.

5. The Obama Administration and Congress fulfilling the President’s promise of patent reform

This is key to each of the previous goals. To their credit, President Barack Obama and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke have expressed a desire for serious patent reform. With his appointment of PTO Director David Kappos, President Obama is off to a good start. 2010 is the year for patent reform!

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