Patent reform hurts ‘little guy’ ( from an article in the Politico)
By REP. DANA ROHRABACHER | 4/22/11 4:29 AM EDT
Admit it or not, there are powerful multinational electronics companies that are out to destroy the U.S. patent system. This is not new. Over the years, global corporatists’ destructive designs on U.S. patent laws have been thwarted — just barely — by a small, less influential, bipartisan group led by myself, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), the activists Phyllis Schlafly, Pat Choate and Raymond Damadian, inventor of the MRI.
Now, however, the barbarians are not just at the gates; they’re inside the wall. The Senate has already passed an anti-patent bill, and an equally alarming version has now passed in the House Judiciary Committee.
This bunch has tried over the years to end the traditional guarantee of a full 17 years of patent protection for every inventor. They pushed mandates to publish patent applications even before the patents are granted. These destructive businessmen are now well on their way to changing the most fundamental elements of our patent system, a specific right in our Constitution: “To promote the progress of Science and useful arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and discoveries.” (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8)
You don’t find the word “right” anywhere else in the Constitution. Nothing ambiguous about it. The inventor of a new technology has the right to own it through patent protection.
This basic intellectual property protection is “first to invent.” But the new, anti-patent legislation being foisted on us would change that to “first to file.”
We’re told this is necessary to harmonize with Japanese and European patent law. But those systems were established by elitists and economic shoguns interested in corporate power, not individual rights. If patent law is to be harmonized — their system should be raised to our high standards, not ours eroded to conform to their weaker ones.
Make no mistake, “first to file” weakens patent protection. It is likely to make vulnerable individual and small inventors, who don’t have an army of lawyers on retainer. These “little guys” have been the lifeblood of American progress and competitiveness for more than 200 years. Our system was designed to protect individual rights, and it has worked for all — not just the corporate elite.
The suggested change not only undermines the rights of the little guy but could create chaos in our struggling system. The Patent and Trademark Office, under “first to file,” could be flooded with CYA (cover your assets) filings, probably overwhelming its ability to function. But infringers, foreign and domestic, who would steal the creative genius of the American people rather than pay for it, want and benefit from a dysfunctional system.
This destructive piece of special interest legislation has already passed the Senate and could well pass the House. The last thing our economy needs now is to weaken our patent protections. There are too many ominous implications for domestic job creation and U.S. competitiveness accompanying this fundamental change in our system.
Yet it could just slip through, possibly unnoticed or misunderstood by the 96 freshmen who have no memory of the two-decade onslaught against the U.S. patent system. House leadership would be prudent to let this destructive legislation sit out on the sidelines.
Be it Europe or Japan, there are many differences in the levels of legal protections of individual rights. We should not weaken our citizens’ constitutional protections in the name of harmonizing our law with other countries.
Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.)
is a senior member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.