Patently absurd

Another attempt at reforming the US patent system is rumbling its way through the US legislature.  One sensible reform is to make patent claims valid only from the date the application is filed, unlikely the current lunacy (unique to the US) which makes it valid from whenever the inventor claims he or she invented it (good luck verifying that).

More controversially, the draft senate bill looks at restricting the value of compensation that can be claimed in case of infringement to the “novel and non obvious” value of a product, rather than its overall value.  This will irritate genuine patent holders and ambulance chasing patent attorneys alike, while cheering up technology firms that violate patents.  A good overview of the legislation can be found on Wikipedia.

It seems to me that tinkering around at the edges of the system is rather like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.  The US patent office needs more root and branch reform to restore its reputation following a series of fiascos in recent years.  In my limited personal experience of the US patent office the system seemed very slow (eight years to get our patent) and we dealt with with patent assessors that seemed barely able to communicate at all, never mind bringing relevant knowledge or perspective.  We got there in the end, but it was an agonising process, and a lot more painful than the UK patent equivalent (which was not exactly a racy process either at five years before being granted).

Given how important intellectual property is, it would seem important to improve the standard of patent reviewers and improve the process itself to avoid some of the crazy patents that have been granted in recent years.  The new legislation does nothing to address this core issue.