Congress is reviewing a patent reform bill this week. According to this Wall Street Journal article, “The bill, a bi-partisan effort sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) and Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) and Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in early February.”
The article also notes that several small business groups are against the bill. The bill would change the U.S. from a first-to-invent system to a first-to-file system. Since larger companies have more resources and attorneys to ensure rapid patent filing, the argument goes, they would benefit from the changes. And the bill may lead to increased patent fees from the USPTO.
I don’t know enough about the bill and its potential effects on the patent system to have a real opinion, but I do believe that any changes should take steps to help small businesses and the valuable contributions they make to our economy (jobs and intellectual property) protect and enforce their rights.
I like Director Kappos and many of the initiatives he has taken to move the USPTO into the 21st century. I have had the opportunity to listen to him speak on multiple occasions and to talk with him once. Before taking the Commissioner’s post at the USPTO, he spent more than 20 years working for I.B.M. I hope that both he and Congress consider the needs of small businesses and those owning a single patent in addition to needs of the Fortune 500 and holders of hundred of patents.