One of the most valuable individual rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution is the right of "inventors" to own "the exclusive right" to their "discoveries" for "limited times." This right was set forth in Article I, Section 8, years before the rights to freedom of speech and religion were added.
This right is recognized and reinforced by our system of granting patents to inventors, so they will be able to protect their exclusive ownership for a limited number of years, after which the invention goes into the public domain. U.S. patents are awarded to the "first-to-invent" a new and useful product.
Our system perfectly implements the stated purpose of the constitutional provision "to promote the progress of science" because, as James Madison explained in Federalist No. 43, it serves both individual property rights and the public good. The U.S. patent system was unique when the Constitution was written and is still unique in the world today.
Many important inventors have attested that they would not have had the incentive to labor for years creating their invention were it not that our system offers hope that its profits would enable them to achieve the American dream. Our patent system, which protects the property right of the inventor, is why the United States has produced most of the world's great inventions and dominates the world in innovation.
All other countries award patents under an alien system called "first-to-file," i.e., the first person to file a paper with a government office. Foreign and powerful financial interests are now haranguing us to make us believe that the new dogma of globalism demands that we "harmonize" our patent system with the rest of the world by changing from first-to-invent to first-to-file.
A bill to do this (S.23) already passed the Senate after a quickie hearing that did not include a single inventor, a small business person, a venture capital person or a constitutional authority. It's now being pushed without any publicity in the House as H.R. 1249.
But harmonization makes no sense. Why would we abandon the proven best system that has worked successfully for more than two centuries and replace it with a proven inferior system?
More importantly, this patent bill must be rejected because it is flat-out unconstitutional. The Constitution plainly states that the property right belongs to "inventors," not to someone handing a piece of paper to a government bureaucrat.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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