January 6, 2010

Myth 2: Many of the patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) actually contain no innovation, effectively allowing the private sector to capture—for profit—ideas that have long been in the public domain.

Fact: The U.S. Congress and Federal Courts have providedthe USPTO an effective legal framework for issuing patents to inventors provided they are “useful,” “novel,” and “non-obvious,” and therefore not in the public domain. In a 2007 decision (KSR International v. Teleflex, Inc.) the Supreme Court heightened the standard for “non-obviousness” to help ensure that only those inventions that are truly inventive are patented. A reexamination procedure also exists for others to challenge patents whose validity is questionable.

While there will likely always exist a small minority of cases that somehow make it through the system—a challenge that the GIPC is working to address—the current framework that has proven successful for decades is essential to continue fostering and rewarding the innovation that translates into economic growth, job creation, and new inventions to help us in our professional and personal lives.

In December 2008, the Global Intellectual Property Center released a report “Recommendations for Consideration by the Incoming Administration Regarding the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.” The report, which can be found on the GIPC website, offers a blueprint for modernizing and fostering a more efficient patent office. Addressing 11 key areas, it features suggestions to improve the quality of patents, patent examiner retention, and the office’s relationship with the user community, among other reforms. The U.S. has remained globally competitive and successful due to our ability to protect ideas and guarantee creative ownership.

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