During last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama spoke of the need to maintain the nation’s competitive position in the world and to encourage innovation. While we wholeheartedly agree with the President’s focus on competition and innovation, unfortunately our outdated patent laws inhibit the innovation they’re supposed to promote – especially in the tech sector.
The patent system dates back to the founding of our country, and contemplated simpler inventions that lacked the hundreds of interoperable components found in the Blackberries and smart phones that some members of Congress Twittered from during the speech. The last comprehensive revision of U.S. patent law took place in 1952 – light years away from where we are today on technology issues.
The current patent system has come under increasing pressure as the technological revolution transforms our way of life and business. It is past time for the patent system to catch up with the 21st Century high-tech economy. Obama’s campaign material noted that, “a system that produces timely, high-quality patents is essential for global competitiveness in the 21st century. By improving predictability and clarity in our patent system, we will help foster an environment that encourages innovation.” So we trust the administration sees patent reform as an innovation issue even though it didn’t make it into the address.
The speech was more general in its focus on jobs without giving too many specifics on creating those jobs. We hope as members of Congress respond to both his call to pass policies that will produce jobs and to find ways to work together, that patent reform will emerge as an issue that has bipartisan support and can deliver the economic boost the nation needs. If Congress can bring patent reform legislation to a vote this year, it will help rebalance, strengthen and enhance the patent system and enable cutting-edge innovation to continue to drive the U.S. knowledge-based economy.