A gaze at the patents column that runs each Sunday in the Deseret News is an indication of the ingenuity of Utah inventors. Patents ranging from new drink container designs to a waterproof pouch have been recently granted.
Cordell Lundahl, a Logan inventor, is an outspoken critic of proposed federal legislation sponsored by another Utahn, Sen. Orrin Hatch, which he says will cripple the U.S. patent system and could end such ingenuity, particularly by the truly Edison-like independent inventors.While Lundahl and many like him are trying to rally support to help kill the bill, SB507, as the Senate reconvenes Monday, supporters say that the patent system needs an overhaul to compete in a global economy.
"It will take technology into the 21st century and will help all inventors. This is a significant reform of patent system. Something that hasn't been done in 45 years," said Jeanne Lopatto, press secretary for the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Hatch heads.
Lopatto says the bill may come up for a vote during the waning days of this congressional session. It could also be attached to other measures.
Among the provisions of the complicated measure, supported by some of the biggest names in business - IBM, AT&T, Microsoft, General Motors and Coca-Cola - are goals to quicken the pace of innovation from lab to consumer and making U.S. rules similar to those around the globe.
Among other things, it is one of those rule changes that has raised the ire of independent inventors. The measure would require publication of the patent after 18 months. A patent can take anywhere from 22 months to years before issuance. Unlike other areas of the world, U.S. patents remain confidential until issuance.
While the original bill was modified to keep patents secret if only filed in the United States, Lundahl said such a rule hurts ability of small inventors to compete in a global marketplace. The past president of an international association of inventors doesn't want the U.S. system tinkered with.
Lundahl has been invited to inventor meetings in foreign countries aned never met a successful independent inventor. Inventors overseas work for corporations and big business, he said.
Any change would be un-American, according to Lundahl, who points to the patent system's roots in the U.S. Constitution, which seeks to protect innovation and the individual inventor. Lundahl got the state Republican Party convention to pass a resolution condemning the patent overhaul. Lundahl says it appears that Hatch has been "bought" by big business and is out of sync with Utahns on this issue.
"I'll never file another patent if this bill passes," Lundahl said.
Supporters say the patent publication requirements are needed to help companies defend themselves from small inventors who say their ideas were stolen.
Under Hatch's bill, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office would become a government corporation, enabling it to act like a private business. Rights to challenge patents, especially those with similar proposals, would be expanded.
The rule changes would reduce the cost of legal bills between companies and inventors who feud over patents, increase the value of patents for inventors and companies and make it easier for U.S. firms and inventors to research, develop and commercialize inventions, according to the 21st Century Patent Coalition, an organization of businesses that support the Hatch bill.