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Patent anxiety

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Diane Laurin

In February, 130 U.S. manufacturers sent a joint letter to President Obama that voiced their concerns about reintroducing patent reform legislation that came before the 110th Congress last year. If passed, the undersigned claimed, the legislation would benefit only a handful of large companies in two industries: high-technology and financial services.

“We feel strongly that the prosperity of a few companies within two industries should not come at the expense of a larger group of stakeholders,” the letter read. “Manufacturers and other patent stakeholders make great investments in inventing new products for sale at home and abroad, and we rely upon a balanced patent system that is good for all innovators.”

The letter was coordinated by the Manufacturing Alliance on Patent Policy (MAPP), an ad hoc coalition of manufacturing companies. In January, MAPP released an economic analysis that said adopting the failed patent reform proposals of 2008 would put at risk 298,000 manufacturing jobs and reduce R&D investment by up to $66 billion.

It’s lamentable when patent reform, a priority in Mr. Obama’s administration, has the potential to undermine investment and employment during these times of economic distress. The 130 companies signing the letter suspect that not much of the 2008 reform proposal will be changed, much to the dismay of several industries.

Adding his voice to the debate, Dr. Alexander Poltorak, chairman and CEO of General Patent Corp. in Suffern, N.Y., and a national expert on the U.S. patent system, said in a press release this month that “the 2009 bill simply attempts to regurgitate the Patent Reform Act of 2007, and it will undermine the core of the U.S. patent system and weaken protection for small inventors.

“In our view,” Poltorak said, “this legislation will undercut American industry and open the floodgates to pirated products from offshore, clearly betraying small and independent inventors, the backbone of American ingenuity.”

If that’s true, and there’s much evidence to indicate it is, we have a responsibility to foster and refine our system of patent protection to the benefit of all U.S. companies, not just the few. Certainly, as the February letter proposes, we should work to improve the operations of the U.S. Patent Office, where the patent application backlog at the agency is more than 700,000 and the average pendency is more than 32 months.

As high-technology colleagues, we owe it to American inventors and entrepreneurs to support patent reform that truly rewards their contributions to innovation in this country. These changes can be made, and they should rightfully be in place when patent reform once again comes before Congress in 2009.

Photonics Spectra
Apr 2009
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...

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