RENO, NV: A group of Nevada patent owners and experts announced the formation Thursday of a coalition to oppose legislation aimed at changing U.S. patent laws in a fashion that will have a strongly negative impact on patents, innovation, and job creation generally and particularly in Nevada.
Called “Nevadans for Fair Patent Reform,” the coalition combines the leadership of some of the state’s top entrepreneurs and innovators with the technical expertise of attorneys from top intellectual property businesses and law firms.
The congressional legislation presently at issue is “The Patent Reform Act of 2009,” (S. 515) introduced in Congress by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), with the support of numerous large U.S. corporations.
“Our concern with S. 515 is that it fails to consider the impact on small companies and individual patent holders,” said Tim Casey, Intellectual Property Expert and Co-owner of Silversky Group. “It is written from the perspective of the biggest companies in the country, and it looks out for their needs to the detriment of small businesses, inventors, and entrepreneurs.”
Among the list of concerns is a fundamental change in the patent law: moving away from the current U.S. “first to invent” system to an unusual “first inventor to file” system. Under the current system, the law gives the patent to the original inventor, even if another person beats him or her to the Patent Office to file an application. The Leahy bill would favor the person who files an application first, giving big corporations and their armies of attorneys the advantage over the average guy or gal who comes up with the next big idea.
“This change would set up a race to the Patent Office, in which larger entities typically would win,” said Bob Ryan, Partner Patent Attorney, Holland & Hart LLP. “In that environment, it will often be very difficult, if not impossible, for small companies and entrepreneurs to protect their intellectual property. Also, the first to file change is unconstitutional, since the Constitution states that Congress can grant patents only to “inventors.””
Ryan noted that there has been a proposed “compromise” in the Senate, called “First Inventor to File.” Ryan explained that this “compromise” also creates real problems for inventors, especially the smaller entity.
Another major concern includes provisions that allow a party to force a patent owner to defend repeated (“serial”) attacks on patent validity in the Patent Office and then later in the Courts.
Nevadans for Fair Patent Reform representatives recently met with Senator Harry Reid in Washington, D.C., to voice their concerns. Last year S. 515 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Senator Leahy chairs, but Senator Reid has not yet given it the green light for a vote by the full Senate. “We are hopeful that Senator Reid will carefully consider the details of this legislation, the effect they will have on Nevadan’s, and do the right thing by upholding more than 100 years of U.S. law and tradition related to the patent office, versus changing the system just to satisfy big businesses who employ very few people in Nevada” said Mr. Casey. “Our patent system should be fair and not favor large corporations over individual inventors.”