The following is an excerpt of a couple of postings from the old Enable IPC blog, dated during July and August of 2007:
The July/August (2007) edition of Forbes Small Business has an important and interesting article that discusses the overloaded US patent system. The backlog of applications is now at 800,000! … There are some reforms that are in the works, apparently. A bill is aimed at improving the quality of patent applications. However, the FSB article says that the bill would make things more difficult for small businesses.
In particular, the issues seem to be changing the protection from "first to invent" to "first to file", … -- meaning you could invent something first, but if someone else files a patent application before you, they get the rights.
The article seems to say that larger businesses are generally for this change while smaller companies are against it (the reason being, larger companies can more easily beat smaller companies to the patent office because they have greater resources).
The latest issue of Fortune Small Business contains a letter from Lynn Sky (owner of Blue Sky Gallery) that asks the question: if we change the law from first to invent to first to file, then "aren't we simply legalizing theft?"
Last week, the House of Representative passed a plan for patent reform, which includes the change to “first to file” (see http://dld.bz/aeD23 ). A number of groups continue to oppose this particular provision, including the National Small Business Association (NSBA; see http://dld.bz/aeD3k). The NSBA also brings up the fact that patent fees are being diverted from the patent office, which is contributing to the backlog issue as well.
The House version, however, has some differences with a Senate version that was passed earlier and the two versions now have to be reconciled.
It will be interesting to see what we end up with. We agree with the NSBA; "first to file" seems wrong and the diversion of US patent fees needs to stop. The USPTO needs those fees so they can hire and utilize additional, more experienced examiners to permanently address this backlog.
The website law.com has provided an interesting summary of where we are at today. Check it out at: http://bit.ly/kAI0GO