The Times of Northwest Indiana Guest Commentary: Patent reform could be end of invention, by Paul Morinville
This post originally appeared in The Times of Northwest Indiana on May 22, 2015.
Paul Morinville is an independent inventor with dozens of patents and pending patent applications in enterprise software.
In 2000, I had a great idea. It was a big enough idea that my employer at the time, computer technology manufacturer Dell, offered seed capital and helped me start a company. My first act was to file for patent protection. At the time, I believed a patent was a valuable asset that would allow me to attract investment and feel safe going to big companies seeking partnerships.
Since then, the patent landscape has changed. Multiple court decisions, the passage of the America Invents Act in 2011, and the adoption of new policies by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office have radically increased the cost and risk of defending one’s patents. Administrative courts invalidate issued patents at rates above 80 percent. Case law has become confusing and contradictory to the point that nobody knows what is patentable anymore. Inventors are losing more cases than at any time in the 225-year history of the U.S. patent system.
These factors have rolled out the red carpet for patent pirates. If a big company steals a patented invention, it pretty much gets to keep it, and damage to the inventor is impossibly hard to prove. Not surprisingly, today there are more companies going out of business than are starting up for the first time in U.S. history. Invention in America has turned ugly – it costs too much and risks are too high.
So what happened to bring this kind of damage to all of us? I think it’s because we are hunting a comic book character – a patent troll. Many describe this fictitious character as an unscrupulous inventor who sues a small business for infringement. The small business has to settle even though it doesn’t feel they infringe, because it is far too expensive and risky to fight it.