“[T]he patents of those who threaten the status quo are challenged while patents of market leaders are left intact.”
I recently went to the USPTO Inventor Hall of Fame with my comrades from US Inventor and I realized that many, if not most, of the Hall of Fame inductees were individuals who were part of established companies.
At first, I was struck with awe and wonderment— and hope. Maybe I will be listed here one day. But then I got sad. I realized that all of these successful inventors have expired patents and many successful individual inventors today have invalidated patents. And, that is what I expect for myself.
I woefully thought—
Maybe I and none of my generation will make it into the USPTO Hall of Fame because none of us will have valid patents, valid inventions. Maybe none of my generation will thus be independent inventors. Maybe the Independent Inventor career is over.
For the past two centuries before the America Invents Act was passed, patent laws in the United States were strong. There was no America Invents Act, which was created a PTAB to wipe out bad patents and patent trolls.
That was also when the very first zipper was created.
In 1851, Elias Howe invented the first toothed fastener device, see U.S. Patent No. 8,540.
In 1892, Whitcomb Judson invented the toothed fastener with a slider device, see U.S. Patent No. 504,037.
In 1914, Gideon Sundback created the modern toothed fastener, see U.S. Patent No. 1,219,881. Sundback is often credited with inventing the toothed fastener in general.
Nearly 200 years later, there are now well over 10,000 patents on toothed fasteners yet we’re all still using toothed fasteners that look and function almost indistinguishably from these prior patents. Toothed fasteners, as a class are zippers with individual and separate rigid, interlocking parts that sit along a fabric tape and which a slider closes and opens. I don’t think Gideon Sundback’s patent would have survived the PTAB in lieu of Elias Howe’s and Whitcomb Judson’s combined prior art.
And, the second zipper was created in a time of strong patent laws.
In 1927, Harry Sipe created a zip track with slider, see U.S. Patent No. 1,959,319.
In 1927, Gideon Sundback created a zip track with slider, see U.S. Patent No. 1,959,318.
In 1937, David Freedman improved Sundback’s zip track, see U.S. Patent No. 2,144,755.
In 1951, Borge Madsen improved upon Sipe’s zip track and created the modern zip track with slider, see U.S. Patent No. 2,613,421. Madsen is often credited with inventing the zip track in general.
Nearly 100 years later, there are now well over 10,000 patents on zip tracks yet we’re all still using zip tracks that look and function almost indistinguishably from these prior patents. Zip tracks, as a class are zippers that are wholly flexible and easily pressed together with fingers or with a slider. I don’t think Borge Madsen’s patent would have survived the PTAB in lieu of Harry Sipe’s, Gideon Sundback’s, and David Freedman’s combined prior art.
Perhaps all 10,000+ recent patents wouldn’t survive the PTAB either.
But, the worries created by the PTAB are not worries that these historical figures ever had. They had security, knowing that if their patent was approved that it was valid and would stay that way and the Patent Office would not suddenly seek to take the patent away. No matter how iterative the improvement was, patents remained valid, strong and worthwhile.
Large corporations own most of the recent zipper IP and have huge R&D labs and have spent billions, if not trillions, of dollars over nearly two centuries to perfect the zipper. Still, these large corporations are selling closures that closely resemble Gideon Sundback’s.
The government has huge R&D labs and it, too, has spent billions of dollars on zipper R&D over the last couple of centuries. Still, after testing every zipper in existence since 2016 and paying others for patent searches and development, the military is still searching for something new, something better.
That is where I come in.
I currently have the only publicly disclosed closure that the military has not tested and have not denied as not meeting their needs.
I contacted a government agency early on and asked for resources, which they have provided to others through grants. They denied resources despite open grants and asked for me to give them the technology so they could bring the research and development in house.
My largest zipper competitors reacted to my public disclosures, even contacting me about obtaining my earliest prototypes and descriptions of my thought processes yet denied knowing what the technology was.
Two centuries of time and billions of dollars spent and, finally, a visibly brand new solution from a young and comparably broke inventor.
Now, after dozens of people and companies have contacted me with interest in my closure, deeming it visibly unique and well-suited to their needs, I wonder will the future utilize my technology, yet my patents will be invalidated because the government and my private competitors so obviously don’t want me to own the IP to this creation.
I hope that as the government and large technology companies try to encourage young women and minorities to innovate that they will reflect on how they have treated me, a young, female, and minority inventor. I wonder if they would consider their initiatives fulfilled if my IP were to be allowed and then invalidated as has happened to my friends who hold important and valuable yet not expired patents.
I wonder if either the government or private companies would try to invalidate the third zipper ever while the patents of 10,000+ iterations of the first two closures are left to expire.
I just want you to know that you’d be killing the future because I won’t invent in the US anymore if my current patents are issued and subsequently invalidated and those 10,000+ iterations are not similarly invalidated. But that isn’t how the Patent Office works, they only invalidate the patents of some under the guise of enhancing patent quality. What that means is the patents of those who threaten the status quo are challenged while patents of market leaders are left intact.
Perhaps the Patent Office should review the patents of Hall of Fame inductees under current legal standards to determine whether those inventors really deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. After all, when the law changes it is retroactively applied against inventors today. My guess is many celebrated inventors would be unceremoniously removed from the Hall of Fame if they were to have their patents reviewed as part of a quality enhancement program the USPTO calls the PTAB.