Patent Reform Act Reforms Nothing

Day 9 of 30 of Writing Challenge

My recent soapbox issue is the state of software patent law in the United States. Most of it stemmed from a This American Life news story that investigated “When Patents Attack”. In others words when people and organizations use broad weak patents to extort money out of companies. The whole thing upsets me.

As much as the state of patent law upsets me , today I had a glimmer of hope that things were moving in the right direction. I saw a comment about the Patent Reform Act that Obama had signed and passed in September. The comment didn’t say much, but from the name alone I believed in what Obama had once sold me on, “Hope.” After all patent law is pretty shitty now and any act to reform it would be a positive thing, right?

WRONG.

Things took a quick wrong turn the moment I googled “Patent Reform Act”.  The first result to show up reads:

“Mostly pointless patent reform bill goes to Obama for signature”

“Mostly pointless”? That doesn’t sound very promising. It turns out this act is pretty pointless. Actually it’s dreadful, unless you are a rich and powerful company. The “reform” is two fold. The first change is granting patents to the first person who files the patent application as opposed to the first person to invent. It used to be the other way around. The original law was there to allow someone who had already invented something to be able to claim a patent rather than letting another individual see his invention and then decide to patent it himself. The original law sounds pretty smart. However, the new reform flips it around and allows the first person to file the patent (and who is granted the patent) to call dibs on the patent. Who does that benefit? Big companies who have the money to hire patent attorneys to file patents all day long. Who does it hurt? Everyone else.

The other major change presented in the reform act is the ability for the USPTO to set their own fees. Before only Congress could set their rates, but now the USPTO  is free to raise their rates (because why on earth would they lower them).

No where in the Patent Reform Act does it address outlawing the use of software patents. That’s the kind of reform I’m looking for. But of course it’s no surprise. Too many companies with lots of money don’t want the status quo to change so they send their lobbyist off to DC to make sure things don’t change…or change in ways to benefit them. Obama sold me on his “Yes we can…change” platform, but I’m not liking the changes I’m seeing. Looks like more of the same.

Reasonable patent laws seem like a pipe dream. Depressing.

Day 3 of 30 of No Internet News Challenge

I feel myself slowly being disconnected from the world. What will I do if I can’t keep up with the Kardashians!?

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