New York − May 25, 2010 − Writing in today’s edition of the Washington Times in an OpEd titled “Patent Reform Misses the Mark,” Alexander Poltorak, president of American Innovators for Patent Reform, and chairman and CEO of General Patent Corporation, criticizes the Patent Reform Act of 2010 and proposes a multi-tier patent system to encourage innovation and job creation.
“The resulting bill, if passed, would weaken our patent system, making patents less valuable and more difficult to enforce, and ultimately will hurt national innovation and job creation,” he writes. Academia, small businesses and independent inventors – America’s true innovators and job creators – have all but been squeezed out of the discussions, he adds.
Dr. Poltorak asserts that the “reforms” the current bill proposes “are not real reforms.” The proposed legislation does not even attempt to address the most fundamental problems in our patent system. Its most outdated feature is the uniform patent term that patent law applies to inventions in all industries regardless of the product life cycles prevalent in these industries. “A patent today,” he writes, “grants the same 20-year term to both a new drug and a computer invention. This one-size-fits-all approach no longer works. We need different terms of exclusivity for different industries with radically different product life cycles and a Patent Office that is capable of examining patent applications within one year.”
“We need a multitier patent system that applies different examination standards and awards different rights to different levels of inventiveness,” writes Dr. Poltorak. Under this proposal, he explains, “The U.S. would benefit greatly from a shift to a multitier patent system with two or even three levels of patent protection: junior, regular and senior. The Patent Office would award junior patents to minor improvements.” He continues, “The application fees would be small and examination time short.” Poltorak proposes to examine junior patents only for novelty as industrial models are in many European countries. Eliminating examination for non-obviousness will free Patent Office examiners to spend more time on other applications related to more substantive inventions. A junior patent would have a short term, would not entail monopoly rights, and only afford its owner a small royalty.
Poltorak suggests that “The Patent Office would only grant a senior patent for a significant breakthrough invention.” He explains that a “senior patent would enjoy exclusionary rights and the longest patent term of 20 years. Everything in between would fall into an ordinary patent as we know it now, with its muddled status of non-obviousness.”
While a “multi-tier approach would not solve the obviousness problem entirely, it could reduce it considerably,” Dr. Poltorak adds. “With about 70 percent of patents awarded to minor improvements, which may qualify for junior-patent status and 10 percent of inventions qualifying for senior-patent status, only the remaining 20 percent of applications would be considered for a regular patent award – where most ambiguity occurs.”
He concludes that this arrangement “would reduce the obviousness problem by a whopping 80 percent (by reducing the ambiguity in issued patents). Moreover, eliminating examination for non-obviousness for junior-patent applications would significantly reduce the workload and the 1.2 million patent application backlog in the Patent Office.”