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New Patent Proposals: It Shouldn't Be Obvious, for Starters
Wednesday, April 28 2004 @ 08:01 PM EDT

More recognition that the US patent system needs tweaking. A new report from the National Academies' National Research Council sets forth recommendations for improving the patent system:

  • The patent system should accommodate new technologies.
  • The system should reward only inventions that meet statutory tests of novelty and utility, and that are not obvious to contemporaries skilled in the relevant technology.
  • Descriptions of patented inventions should be as complete, clear, and accessible as possible; and in all cases, applications should be published during patent examinations.
  • Administrative and judicial decisions should be timely, and costs associated with them should be reasonable.
  • Access to patented technologies should be available for research purposes and in the development of cumulative technologies, where one advance builds upon previous advances.
  • Progress should be made in harmonizing the U.S., European, and Japanese patent-examination systems to reduce public and private transaction costs, and to facilitate trade, investment, and innovation.
  • Similarly situated holders of intellectual property rights should enjoy the same benefits and be accountable for the same legal obligations.


One suggestion from the report, which you will be able to obtain here, is "an "'open review procedure' for third parties to challenge recently issued patents before the USPTO's administrative patent judges, who would resolve questions about a given patent's validity. If administrative judges handled these validity questions, then federal district courts could focus on patent-infringement issues. . . . The report also urges the USPTO to strenuously observe the statutory requirement known as the 'nonobviousness standard,' which says that in order to qualify for a patent, an invention cannot be obvious to a person of ordinary skill in a given area."

The study was sponsored by NASA, U.S. Department of Commerce, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Center for the Public Domain, Pharmacia Corp., Merck & Co. Inc., Procter & Gamble Co., and IBM. The National Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science and technology advice under a congressional charter. An executive summary is here.


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