This part of the bill would force patent applications to be published worldwide 18 months after they are filed, whether or not a patent has been granted, if the application is also filed with a foreign patent office that requires publication after 18 months.
Opponents are horrified, saying publication would make their inventions vulnerable to being ripped off before they receive the protection of a patent. Proponents say they need to know what their competitors are working on as soon as possible . This is a compromise measure: Backers had pushed for all U.S. patent applications to be made public after 18 months.
* Third-party rights: This measure would give third parties a greater role in patent reexamination proceedings at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Patent reexaminations--where an outside party disputes a federal patent examiner's finding that an invention deserves a patent--are relatively rare and outside or third parties have had limited access during the procedure.
Those in favor of expanding the rights of third parties in the reexamination process say it will cut down on patent litigation by making it easier to address problems before they wind up in court. Spending thousands of dollars on pursuing a patent reexamination in the patent office makes more sense than spending millions in federal court, they say.
Opponents fear that giving outsiders an easier way to dispute a patent will allow a deep-pocket competitor to tie up the patent of a small company or individual, costing them thousands of dollars in legal bills.
* Patent and Trademark Office: This part of the bill would effectively make the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office an independent agency. Instead of a commissioner approved by Congress, the office would be run by a director appointed by the president. An advisory board, likely to be made up of large companies as well as independent inventors, would review policies, performance and budgets.
Proponents say the measure will give the office the infrastructure, autonomy, and budgetary power to operate effectively.
Opponents say it gives corporate America too much influence over every aspect of the patent office.
"Everything they want could be done by regulation . . . and you and I as Americans have nothing to say about it," said Delaney of the independent inventors group.
Despite the heated rhetoric on both sides, patent legislation has failed to capture the attention of the American people. Still, momentum is growing for change--change that will have a lasting effect on independent inventors and businesses large and small.
Cyndia Zwahlen can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.