“At the USPTO public hearings on the SUCCESS Act, we told the truth, detailing the emotional and financial pain that accompanies having one’s intellectual property invalidated. But our comments were all but ignored in the recently published report.”
It has been one year since my software patent was invalidated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Now, this intellectual property is considered worthless and my dream of paying off extensive student loans with the proceeds from patent licensing fees are in the past. The irony being that if it were not for these extensive student loans, this invention, most likely, would not have come to into being.
My patent No. 6,769,915, issued in 2003, was invalidated under Section 101 and struck down on appeal. The patent covers “a user-interactive behavior modification system” that is in competition with technology pursued by companies that manufacture and market digital health and wellness trackers.
The rules that existed when I applied for this software patent in 2000 no longer guarantee myself and hundreds of other independent inventors the right to collect patent licensing fees. This right was granted to all with The Patent Act of 1790. Yet, over the last 15 years, the U.S. patent laws have been changed drastically by extremely well-financed lobbyists on behalf of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) largest customers— global corporations, including the Big Tech industry. This has relieved Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. from the necessity of having to pay independent inventors software licensing fees. With this shift in intellectual property laws, the once small startups of Silicon Valley have become the large monopolies they are now.
Here are the lessons I have learned while adjusting to this new reality.
Lesson 1: Capital rules, to the detriment of the people
Following my invalidation, I supplemented what little action I could take, in the form of filing an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, by joining up with an inspirational group of independent inventors (www.USinventor.org). This passionate group is determined to educate the public on the recent actions in Congress, the Supreme Court, and ultimately at the USPTO, that have made inventing no longer a viable option for the people.
The state is doing the bidding of large corporations to the detriment of the people.
It was with determination to speak our conscience that we testified collectively in several locations across the United States this past spring. At these USPTO public hearings, structured to collect testimony for a report mandated by the Study of Underrepresented Classes Chasing Engineering and Science Success Act of 2018 (SUCCESS Act), we told the truth, detailing the emotional and financial pain that accompanies having one’s intellectual property invalidated. Our comments were all but ignored in the recently published report, relegated to an appendix and excluded from the legislative recommendation published on November 1.
Lesson 2: The current system perpetuates misogyny
The Success Act blatantly encourages our highest “at risk” U.S. populations (women, minorities and veterans) to invent, patent and seek commercialization. By doing so, the U.S. Government is setting a trap to steal their intellectual property, ideas which once provided these same populations a chance to realize the American Dream.
For women of all races and creeds, this theft of livelihood is not new.
The labor of women has historically been disconnected from capital since the end of the Feudal Class system and the beginning of capitalism. During this transformative era the rise in the numbers of women persecuted neatly correlates to the decline of the domestic economy, “the rise of capitalism, the male takeover of traditionally female professions, the tightening moral and religious strictures, and the peasant rebellions.” (Mary Sharratt, Witch Persecutions, Women, and Social Change: Germany: 1560 – 1660). The witch hunts of this time period persecuted old, poor and lower class women. By the 16th century, the only opportunities for women to earn a living were in menial servant and labor occupations.
The parallel transition that can be made in allegory today is our detrimental transition from a self-sustaining (local farms and local manufacturing), democratic society to a globalized, Neo-liberal, misogynist, oligarchic society. While the gap between the rich and the poor widens each day, those in power pull the levers of culture to promote distorted feminist images from Reality TV. As Rabah Omar puts it in New Politics, that of the “empowered” woman leaning-in and striving for high net worth, who contributes to sexism and misogyny by replacing “collective justice for self-help and solidarity for self-reliance.”
This image mightily contradicts the independent minority, female and veteran inventors I bonded with in testimony at USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, this past spring. Instead, it is the picture of the ideal corporatized female inventor; inventors who work for and assign their rights to corporations or government entities, showcased in the USPTO’s recently published SUCCESS Act report for President Trump by his political appointees.
Image Source: Deposit Photos
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