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Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.





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Against Monopoly

In reading Robert Pear's excellent article in today's New York Times Business Section documenting the sheer waste associated with patent-oriented rent-seeking by Big Pharma in its lobbying over Congress's current round of attempted patent reform, I was struct by this sequence of quotes and comments on the disagreement between companies that rely on patents and those that don't regarding the proposed reforms of the inequitable conduct doctrine, which allows the courts to invalidate a patent if it is demonstrated that the patentee deliberately withheld or distorted information in the patent application process:

Mr. Armitage, the Lilly executive, said: "The doctrine of inequitable conduct is used so aggressively in litigation that it has unintended consequences. Applicants give the Patent and Trademark Office too much information, to avoid allegations that they concealed anything, and they refuse to explain the information, to avoid later allegations that they engaged in some form of misrepresentation."

James C. Greenwood, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, said, "The poor patent examiner gets a dump truck full of information that he has to pore over without any assistance from the applicant."

The number of patent applications 467,243 in 2007 has nearly doubled in the last 10 years and has more than tripled since 1987.

Jon W. Dudas, the under secretary of commerce for intellectual property, said: "We are getting more and more unpatentable ideas, worse and worse quality applications. Historically, in the last 40 years, the allowance rate the percentage of applications ultimately approved hovered around 62 percent to 72 percent. It went up to 72 percent in 2000, but dropped to 43 percent in the first quarter of this year."

On reading this, I started to wonder if anyone had thought about possible open source methods for reviewing patent applications, and, lo and behold, this is something the USPTO is apparently considering. Link here.


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