Posted at 1:18 PM on April 7, 2008
by Bob Collins
Part of the fun of reading the New York Times is reading the occasional full-page ad from some special interest group, warning of some sort of apocalypse if some sort of legislation is -- or isn't -- passed.
Today, a two-page ad predicts the destruction of America, if a bill, apparently favored by Minnesota representatives Tim Walz and Keith Ellison, is passed.
The issue? Patents.
The Patent Reform Act of 2007, about to be debated in the Senate, changes the rules on who gets patents.
According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, "supporters of the Patent Reform Act of 2007 want to switch to a 'first-to-file' system that would grant patent rights to the first person to file an application. The United States is the lone country still using a 'first-to-invent' system that rewards an inventor who first conceives the innovation, even if another person submits an earlier application."
Opponents says it'll lead to the "little inventor" being squeezed out by big institutions and corporations, who'll have the resources to get to the patent office sooner, once they hear about someone else's research.
The group that took out today's ad, the Professional Inventors Alliance, is headed by one guy who is responsible for "a revolutionary design of the treadmill," and another who invented the folding and replaceable electronic keyboard, both of which apparently have prevented the destruction of America.
On the other side is a group called The Coalition for Patent Fairness (I haven't seen their ad yet), which is made up of companies including (in Minnesota) Comcast and Wells Fargo Bank. They say the current system allows people with "dubious" patents to shake down high-tech companies for big payments to make patent infringement claims go away.