Inventors say the U.S. Patent Office is now taking an average of 31 months to grant a patent! So, when the Patent Office publishes (i.e., posts online) a patent application before a patent is granted, this gives patent pirates all over the world an average of 13 months (31 minus 18) to study detailed descriptions of virtually all U.S. patent applications, steal and adapt these new American ideas to their own purposes, and go into production.
Foreign governments, foreign corporations, and patent pirates are thus able to systematically "mine" U.S. patent applications and steal American-owned inventions. The 2007 "reform" bill's "harmonization" is a fraud because it does nothing to require or induce other countries to respect U.S. patents.
The unconscionable delay in processing patent applications resulted when Congress diverted the fees paid by inventors into pork and other pet projects. That meant the Patent Office could not hire the additional examiners it needed to process the rising number of domestic and foreign patent applications, and so a massive backload built up.
What recourse does the inventor have? If the infringer is in another country (China is a notorious thief of intellectual property), the U.S. inventor must have filed a patent application in that other country and the lawsuit must be filed there.
The proposed Patent Reform Act of 2007, sponsored by Sens. Leahy and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Reps. Berman and Lamar Smith, R-Texas, would further reduce inventors' rights. For the sake of "international consistency," it would convert the U.S. system to a "first to file" system, thereby replacing our unique and successful U.S. "first to invent" system.
The U.S. gives priority to the first one who actually invents something rather than to one who simply files papers about what he plans to invent. The change to "first to file" would create a race to the Patent Office and would severely disadvantage the small and independent inventors who lack the resources of big corporations.
Much more is wrong with the Patent Reform Act of 2007, but I've run out of space, so stay tuned.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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