Thomas Jefferson, author of the Patent Act of 1793
The United States Constitution is a relatively short document, but one that has provided guiding principles for over 220 years. At a time when the nation was struggling to exist under the Articles of Confederation our Founding Fathers met in Philadelphia beginning on May 14, 1787. The outcome of this convention was the U.S. Constitution, which was signed by 38 of the 41 delegates present on September 17, 1787. New Hampshire was the ninth State to ratify the Constitution, and did so on June 21, 1788, causing the Constitution to become the supreme law of the land.
Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution granted Congress the power to grant patents and copyrights for limited times in order to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. As James Madison stated in Federalist Paper No. 43, the usefulness of the Congresses power to award both patents and copyrights “will scarcely be questioned.” Madison, Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, at 512-13 (Hunt and Scott ed. 1920). Indeed, the new Congress wasted little time in exercising this power to promote the progress. Clearly demonstrating just how important the Founding Fathers perceived a patent system to be, the third Act of Congress was the Nation’s first Patent Act; the Patent Act of 1790.
Earlier this month an Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) patent application published. This in and of itself isn’t news, but the contents of the innovation disclosed is indeed noteworthy. This particular Apple patent application, US Patent Application No. 20110128384, covers a method of disabling video capture in a cell phone or similar device; namely in the Apple iPhone.
Such an innovation would make it impossible to capture video or pictures at live events where cameras and video recorders are prohibited, such as at live entertainment venues. Such an innovation would no doubt be to the liking of those who engage in live performances and don’t prefer to have videos taken and ultimately posted to the Internet. It wouldn’t, however, be an innovation that would be particularly interesting to the consuming public though, so whether Apple would ever implement these features remains an open question.
Good afternoon Lady Olson and panel members. Thank you for allowing me, as Chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Federal Judicial Improvements, to testify about federal court fiscal problems. Our problems pale in comparison with the threats to the state judiciaries. But the Task Force mission statement includes the federal courts as an object of concern so I am honored to express my personal views with the hope they will help you in your extremely timely and important task.
Pat Choate and Hank Nothhaft, at the Met Club, June 14, 2011.
I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of Great Again several months before it became available. I have also had the pleasure of getting to know Hank Nothhaft and his co-author David Kline over the past year or so, frequently exchanging e-mails discussing a variety of innovation and patent related issues. It has been exceptionally difficult to keep quiet knowing what Hank and David were writing about, and then reading the nearly finished manuscript. Simply put, everyone in the innovation industry and patent community needs to read Great Again. Every Staffer on Capitol Hill and everyone working in the White House needs to read Great Again. While Members of Congress are no doubt busy with a great many things, they too should read Great Again, but at the very least Members of Congress and those in the Executive Branch, including President Obama, should at a minimum read the Introduction, which is just 12 pages long.
You hear a lot these days about the need to protect Intellectual Property and capture innovation, but you don’t hear much about the traditional expense involved. There’s a reason for that: given the constantly evolving, “wild west” nature of today’s technical frontier, it is often prohibitively expensive for the little guy to cover all the bases and keep up with all the changes. Small businesses have had few options for affordable, comprehensive preparedness on the IP front, and in the wake of the recession, you’re likely to hear a lot more about the need to cut legal spending than you are about performing more audits and hiring more lawyers.
Companies are beginning to tackle this paradox by practicing the word on the lips of everyone from David Kappos (Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO) to Robert L. Stoll (Commissioner for Patents, USPTO), to business leaders, to even President Obama – innovation. But what good is innovation in and of itself? The innovation our leaders want demands adequate protections in place to turn those promising innovations into business assets.
As Patent Doc Kevin Noonan pointed out recently, what hasn’t been much discussed is the fact that prior user rights violate the intent of Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. I have alluded to this in some articles, and have also alluded to the fact that first to file provisions are more in keeping with the purpose of the so-called Patent Clause to the U.S. Constitution. The very reason for granting Congress the power authorize the granting of patents is to promote the dissemination of information. That is how society benefits, and it is how progress is promoted. I will not go so far as to say that first to invent is unconstitutional, that would be nonsensical. Neither will I go so far as to say that prior user rights are unconstitutional. Nevertheless, what I will say is that first to invent and prior user rights embrace a philosophical choice that is antithetical to the very purpose of the Patent Clause.
I have been watching in utter amazement as individuals with a variety of experience in the patent field debate the constitutionality of the first to invent proposals. This started when those who will not allow truth and accuracy to deter from their arguments started saying that the Supreme Court ruled first to file unconstitutional in Stanford v. Roche. That argument was, and still remains, specious because Standord v. Roche had nothing to do with the issue, nowhere in the case did Chief Justice Roberts make such statement, hint that he was thinking such a thing, or say anything colorably related to such a conclusion. See Did the Supreme Court Rule First to File Unconstitutional?
Now the argument is morphing into a discussion of whether the word “inventor” must mean “first inventor.” This very question is being seriously raised in some academic circles, by some patent practitioners who ought to know better, and by those who simply want to kill patent reform at all costs even if they have to engage in gross misrepresentation in order to do so. Indeed, there are those ranging from neophyte to relatively experienced that are seeking to change history, ignore logic and refuse to acknowledge well established patent law precedent in order to twist the word “inventor” in the U.S. Constitution to mean “first inventor,” which would then call into question the constitutionality of the first to file provisions of patent reform now before the House of Representatives; H.R. 1249.
Now that the dust is settling down after the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the much debated Stanford v. Roche case, we need to take stock of its pragmatic impact. We are happy to report that Bayh-Dole remains unscathed.
After all was said and done, the underlying case was a standard debate over ownership of a valuable invention between two parties who had been working together.
How to Write a Patent Application is a must own for patent attorneys, patent agents and law students alike. A crucial hands-on resource that walks you through every aspect of preparing and filing a patent application, from working with an inventor to patent searches, preparing the patent application, drafting claims and more.
Without hesitation I recommend One Simple Idea and think it should be required reading for any motivated inventor. There is so much to like about the book and so much that I think author Stephen Key nails dead on accurate. The book is educational, information and inspirational. For the $14 cover price it is essential reading.
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