November 12, 1999
We reaffirm our longstanding opposition to what is falsely called "patent reform," including what is currently in H.R. 1554. The sponsors of "patent reform" have refused to heed the urgent request of prominent Nobel Laureates to have a full and open study of this legislation. We should have extensive consideration of the legislation's economic impact and the consequences of trying to do an end-run around the constitutional guarantee to inventors of their "exclusive" rights.
We also strenuously object to the irregular way the bill was passed through the House with the proponents controlling both sides of the debate, and to the stealth way the sponsors are trying to put it through the Senate by attaching it to an unrelated conference report without ever passing the Senate in the first place. We have to wonder what powerful forces are trying to ram this legislation through Congress without public discussion, and without any demonstrated need for major restructuring of our successful patent system.
· Sec. 4302 (Defense to Patent Infringement Based on Earlier Inventor) would write prior user rights into a statute for the first time. This would diminish the constitutional right of inventors to the "exclusive" ownership of their creations. This provision is a foot-in-the-door attempt to expand prior user rights in order to make the successful U.S. patent system more like the unsuccessful foreign systems.
· Sec. 4604 (Optional Inter Partes Reexamination Procedures) would change and expand re-examination procedures so as to strip the inventor of the presumption of his patent's validity. It would provide a "hunting license" for large corporations and foreigners to challenge the validity of any existing patent, and the estoppel included in the bill is inadequate protection. A cloud of uncertainty, so costly to individual inventors, would hang over all existing patents.
· Sec. 4502 (Domestic Publication of Foreign Filed Patent Applications) takes a long step toward the early publication that the Japanese and Chinese have been demanding ever since Ron Brown's deal with the Japanese Ambassador in September 1993. It would allow the individual inventor to retain some of his existing rights against early publication only if he promises not to file for a patent abroad.
· Sec. 4711 (Establishment of Patent and Trademark Office) would remove the Patent Office from Congressional oversight and (in the false name of "privatization") would globalize and de-Americanize the PTO, making it ultimately subject to control by the multinationals and even international bodies.
Some cosmetic changes have been made from last year's Omnibus Patent bill, but the bottom-line purpose remains the same. The U.S. Patent Office would be changed from a government agency protecting independent inventors to a tool of the multinational corporations. "Patent reform" is a code word for discouraging potential competitors by weakening the rights of independent inventors. This legislation should be defeated if we care about America's future economic security.