It’s really immoral and unethical but possible, until now, for large companies to be built and operate on the premise that they had your idea first. These entities are most commonly referred to as “patent trolls”, which provides an appropriate visual image, who acquire patents at large with no intention of production, like fishing for a lawsuit and as a result stifling invention and tying up our legal system. In response to the actions of certain companies that monopolize innovation for financial gain the President has taken steps in reforming this blatant abuse of an honorable system, by reforming and amending laws within the USPTO (United States Patent and Trade Office).
Certainly nobody stands to benefit from the existence of patent trolls, like scalpers, the domain name game that happened a decade ago, or why gas prices suddenly erratically spike, because people are allowed to make money from this activity at the expense of an innocent victim. Specifically the changes proposed by President Obama detail educating its own agents in identifying these broad ranging (non-specific) patents not intended for production, education of small, independent inventors in avoiding and identifying patent trolls, and receive continuous feedback for further legislation in streamlining and legitimizing the patent process. All of these measures are a step in the right direction, including stricter penalties and fines for companies that conduct their business in this way. Education is fundamental and support from legal entities in favor of the inventor should be a priority and the obvious ethical decision. Perhaps establishing a non-partisan agency or entity with time lines related to production, manufacturing and launch, with access to legal counsel and crowd funding? Apparently there are laws to still be charted out as part of the JOBS Act, however at least there is some sort of action. The last time anything was addressed relating to the Patent system was back in 1952!
Invention is the backbone of this country, as a nation we are proud of the steam engine, automobile, telephone and our precious electricity. As long as there have been great ideas, there have been people stealing those ideas. We all know someone who invented something that is already on the market, or have said, “I could have come up with that”, the fact is someone acted first, and action is the key. The legal structure behind the patent process was intended to protect (give insurance) the inventor and invention, which is really protecting a non material item. In theory and practice the USPTO is a great and powerful team of good guys that organize, sort, validate and archive tons of private information ethically. If it is able to function without being clogged with frivolous litigation, essentially the morality police, it will effectively send a clear message that the “buck stops here”.
As Patent filings continue to rise in relation to advancement in technology, the workload by this entity is enormous and under acknowledged. Many believe that the time has come (or is already here) that we enter the next Industrial Revolution, but it will be the Technology Revolution, changing the way we live and communicate. We will always need qualified legal representation and knowledgeable counsel and support as this nation continues to work on a more global scale. Addressing fraud and other “legal crimes” is brave and hopeful, especially as it pertains to protecting the inventions of the future.