This grace period is very important to independent inventors, small companies and startups. It permits them to delay the costs of filing until the invention is evaluated, a decision is made as to whether it is worth spending money on and investment capital is raised.
The proposed bill redefines the grace period in a way that is hostile to small inventors and small businesses because it states that any disclosure of the invention by anyone other than the inventor at any time, even within that first year, will bar the real inventor from getting a patent. Weakening the grace period thus poses an enormous risk to the most innovative sectors of our economy.
Another outrage of the proposed patent bill is the provision that subjects to expensive new litigation and retroactively attacks the patent on the check-clearing system, which enables banks to return photo-images to their depositors rather than actual canceled checks. This new system saves the banks millions of dollars because they no longer have to truck the checks physically to other banks to be cleared.
This system was created by inventor Claudio Ballard, who received a patent for it, survived post-grant review and won expensive court battles when he defended his patent against infringement by the banks. After all that, the new patent bill (ignoring the principle of res judicata -- the thing is already decided) sets up an unprecedented procedure to overturn the patent office and court decisions, giving the banks another chance to invalidate Ballard's patent.
A 15-page letter to Congress from professor Richard A. Epstein, the nation's foremost authority on property rights, explains how the "stacked procedures of Section 18" in the bill are designed to let banks use Ballard's invention without paying him for it. Epstein, who wrote the book on "takings" under the Fifth Amendment, says Ballard deserves just compensation for the use of his patent.
Altogether, the proposed bill, mischievously called "patent reform," is a bad, dangerous and dishonest bill that must be defeated if we care about respecting the Constitution, inventors' property rights and American leadership in innovation.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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