One of the major challenges facing the next Congress will be patent reform. (To the right is the original patent for the laser, given to Bell Labs.)
The present system is a mess. We’re still running a 19th century patent system.
A 21st century patent system will be based on the Internet. It will be a tremendous victory for Internet politics and its prime goals of connectivity, transparency, and openness.
Reform starts with understanding the goals of the system:
- Speeding patented technologies to market.
- Examining claims so they’re valid when granted.
- Limiting claims so they don’t veto the creation of better mousetraps.
- Eliminating patents for what, as in math, the obvious, and business process, and allowing patents only for how.
At the heart of patent reform must be the publication of patents. Patent applicants must disclose what they’re patenting, and this should be public information. Existing patents also need wide publicity, so they can find their market.
What we have right now is a system of patent trolling. Lawyers make
wild claims, patents are granted without sufficient examination, and
little effort is given to finding producers for patented technologies
— instead trolls just wait for someone to create a business then hold
them up for it.
One thing that’s vital for the patent system right now is money. This
can come from within the system itself. Application fees need to be
raised, but to keep this from becoming a burden on inventors the bulk
of that raise should be deferred, and charged only after an invention
is commercialized. (Those which don’t make it to the market get a Cheney deferral.)
Bring the entire patent system to the Internet. Get enough lawyers on
the case so all patents are valid before they’re granted. And then use
the same Internet to publicize, license, and deliver profit to