Tony Fulford, our Guest Blogger, is an independent inventor dedicated to enhancing and protecting America’s unique natural resource…the small independent inventor.
We asked him to help us raise awareness about proposed changes to the U.S. Patent Laws that some argue could serve to destroy the small independent inventor.
Here's his article:
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The patent laws in the United States are about to change and the proposed changes could destroy the small independent inventor.
The current American patent system is based on first-to-invent as opposed to first-to-file as in most other countries. What this means is in the United States, as long as the small inventor:
- has idea(s) that are new, i.e., unique
- idea(s) that are not obvious
- properly records their idea(s)
- has their idea(s) properly witnessed and signed
- practices due-diligence in pursuing their ideas
They, and they alone, are the owner of an idea that is worthy of a patent.
The small inventor can have many ideas that meet the above criteria, but many do not have the financial resources to file a non-provisional patent application (about $10,000 to $15,000) to properly claim their ownership for the idea and turn it into an issued patent. Currently, one of the main ways they can practice due-diligence on their invention is to file a Provisional Application for Patent, which only cost $100 to file. This application, although it must be thorough enough for someone familiar with the area of the idea to produce it, it does not have the rigorous criteria of a non-provisional patent application and therefore cost much less to have it prepared.
On the other hand, large corporations have the staff and financial resources to file non-provisional patent applications at will.
Now, if Senate Bill S 1145 (Patent Reform Act of 2007 ) is passed into law, the U.S. will have a first-to-file patent system as most other countries are today. This means that the Provisional Application for Patent will no longer exist. As a result, the small inventor with limited financial resources will no longer have an appropriate mechanism to practice due-diligence without substantial expense. Then, time will pass without the small inventor being able to prove they are practicing due-diligence. Sooner or later, the large corporations will stumble across the idea (even a blind hog roots an acorn every now and then) and end up patenting it before the small inventor. Under this system, the small inventor will likely remain a small POOR inventor.
Small companies and small independent inventors are the heart and soul of this country. Do we want to relinquish innovation to the large corporations. I don't think so! Please help stop this pending legislation.
A good overview of the issues is available at TMC.net's article "Inventors Cry Foul" .
To find out more about what you can do to save the small independent American inventor, you can check out the Inventor Forums at InventorSpot.com's as well as the InnovationAlliance's website.
Anthony Lawton Fulford