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Patent Reform - A letter to Congress from Louis Foreman

louis's Avataren_staff_badge

As an independent inventor and entrepreneur, I have a deep appreciation and respect for the value of intellectual property. The United States Patent System provides the incentive and protection to be innovative. To go out and discover what is new and possible. These innovations could ultimately have enormous impacts on our lives, or simply add joy. We, as inventors, benefit from the patent rights afforded to us. Society benefits from our creativity as well.

The patent system in the United States is the best system in the world, yet it is in dire need of reform. Current backlog of applications has reached a record high, and without a major tune-up of the system, we run the risk of seeing the engine of innovation break down. There is a unique opportunity to address some of the major issues facing the patent system through proposed legislation currently being studied in the House and Senate.

On April 8th, I stood up and took a public position FOR reform. In a letter sent to members of both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, I voiced the support of Independent Inventors for patent reform. I do not take this lightly, and I certainly did not do this without taking the pulse of the Independent Inventor community.

Over the past 12 months, I have met with thousands of you, and what I hear is consistent. We want a system that protects inventors. We want a system that is affordable. We want a system that quickly and efficiently processes our applications. And we want to know that our patents will not be challenged years after issuance. We want to be able to use our intellectual property to build businesses, create jobs, or generate an economic return on our investment.

The following letter was my attempt at sharing this with our elected officials. I welcome your feedback, questions, and support.

Best regards.

Louis J. Foreman

April 8, 2010

The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Leahy:

On the Emmy Award winning PBS television show, Everyday Edisons, the show opens with the simple proclamation: Every idea deserves a chance. A chance to change the way we work, the way we live, or the way we play.

Over the past three seasons, tens of thousands of independent inventors have brought their ideas for the chance to have them developed and commercialized on the show. They bring with them not only their prototypes, but their hopes and dreams. These garage tinkerers and problem solvers are what define this country. They are the ones who always believe there has to be a better way, and go out and prove it. They are the true independent inventors.

As executive producer of the PBS series Everyday Edisons and the publisher of Inventors Digest magazine, a 25 year old publication devoted to the independent inventor community, I have met inventors, both famous and soon to be famous. I am moved by their stories of success and also failure. Their optimism fuels their desire to pursue their innovations, knowing that there exists a system to ultimately protect their inventions if they are successful.

As an independent inventor myself, and an advocate for others, I strongly believe that the current leadership at the USPTO is working in the best interests of all inventors, and have thoughtfully and diligently provided the necessary measures to not only protect independent inventors, but to also encourage future pursuits of intellectual property.

Our current system of protecting inventors is in dire need of reform. The proposed measures would be a significant improvement to the existing system and benefit everyone. The reform legislation will lower fees for micro-entities, provide for a shorter waiting time for patent prosecution, and ultimately result in a stronger patent, making it easier for independent inventors and small businesses to attract start-up capital.

Change can be frightening, and I can certainly understand why there would be reluctance to address the system. What I fear more, however, is when groups opposed to advancing the system use fear to thwart progress and prevent the benefits associated with change. Sitting still and leaving the current system alone is not an option, nor does it benefit anyone. Pendency must be reduced to allow for an efficient system of protecting intellectual property and stimulating innovation.

While I support the proposed patent reform measures, I am hopeful that change does not end here. This is the time and opportunity to invest in the innovative future of America by providing increased funding to the USPTO to reduce the current backlog by modernizing the systems and technologies used to process applications.

Innovation benefits everyone and leads to the creation of new jobs and new industries; however, none of this occurs without execution. Innovation requires an idea along with an investment of time and resources. Patent reform is no different. This country has the unique opportunity to tune-up the engine of innovation and use it to drive this country forward.

It is my sincere hope that you will listen to the voice of the true independent inventor community and answer their call for change. Like so many others, I stand ready to assist. I would welcome the opportunity to share my thoughts and ideas in more depth should that be viewed as helpful.

Sincerely,

Louis J. Foreman

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imajane's Avatarname search

They’d be wise to take you up on your offer to help.

Is Senator Leahy the one for us to write to, or should we write one of our own Senators? I’ve got post-traumatic patent stress from dealing with the current system! (so to speak)

Thanks for being such a strong advocate for inventors!

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icecreamman's Avatarg8_badge

A+

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louis's Avataren_staff_badge

Senator Leahy is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He is certainly one of the key members. I would suggest that you reach out to your state Senators and Representatives and let them know where you stand on patent reform. Congress is back in session next week and I anticipate they will be dealing with this issue very soon.

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louis's Avataren_staff_badge

I appreciate the feedback and your agreement that we need reform. A better patent system stands to benefit everyone. The current system needs to be refined and improved. I don’t think there is much of an argument there.

I agree that there should be absolute transparency in my intentions. As an inventor, and one who benefits from intellectual property, I want a system where a patent can be examined and prosecuted in 12 months or less. I want a system where once issued, there is a defined period of time when my patents can be challenged. I want some degree of certainty that there is validity and value in the intellectual property so that I can either make the investment to bring products to market, or license the IP to others. All independent inventors benefit in such a system.

You are absolutely correct…“there are people in the inventing industry that don’t care quite as much about it as I do”. I stood up because I was concerned that groups, claiming they were the voice of independent inventors, were saying reform was bad. There was a great deal of misinformation out there, and it was not productive. I have done my due diligence and truly believe that reform will benefit independent inventors, myself included.

I appreciate your support and hope that you will continue to be an advocate for a stronger patent system.

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groeback's Avatar

Bravo! As a patent holder, I believe the system works well for small entity inventors, but it could use reform to make the whole process easier and quicker for the independent inventors. If you need signatures or testimony from inventors, you have mine.

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louis's Avataren_staff_badge

As always Mark, I appreciate the suggestion.

I strongly encourage inventors to become better educated on Patent Reform, and to understand what is right and what is simply misinformation. Just because it is posted on an online forum does not make it factual.

A great place to learn more about the current reform legislation is contained in the Open Letter from USPTO Director Kappos:

http://www.uspto.gov/inventorseye/kapposLetter.htm

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criteriond's Avatar

Hey Louis,

I applaud the letter and vocal stance. There is definitely a lot of misinformation floating around on the subject of patent reform, and it only grows when those who are visible amongst and who hold the respect of the independent inventor community become misinformed, or otherwise innocently confused, and feel a need to speak out against the proposed reforms for reasons that don’t always make sense.

Bill

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mredsasyshi1's Avatargold

I agree wholeheartedly in that a change must occur to the current system and those that would use fear to keep the status quo in place are nothing more than lobbyists with their own deep pockets and agendas in mind.

It takes the voices of the people to affect change in the votes and minds of the politicians and if we sit idly by and do nothing as the small fry independent inventor then our politicians can and will be swayed by the lobbyists who have no concern for advancement.

I recall reading a decade ago about how inundated and mismanaged 1800 England was with inventions that the applications would pile up taller then a man and often an inventor would have to wait most of their adult life before they could ever see their idea come to fruition. I realize that things have sped up since then but my life clock has started counting down and I don’t know how long I’ve got left and cannot simply sit and do nothing. I have written to my representatives and explained to them what the lack of reform means to me, my health and my life span.

The US has some 750,000 applications sitting on the floor and if that is not a good example of how bad it has got I don’t want to see worse. I cannot afford to…

Thank you Louis for taking a stand and putting yourself out there for the little fry. ;)

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louis's Avataren_staff_badge

I thought I would share the following note I received from Senator Leahy’s office today:

Mr. Foreman, thank you very much for this letter. The letter is productive and constructive. We appreciate your support for the patent reform effort and changes to the system that will encourage investment in inventions and innovation.

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plavery85's Avataree_badge

Louis,

The letter is exceptional. Very well written, clear concise and to the point. I think you presented your/our stance eloquently.

I personally appreciate the addition of affordable. I am at a place where I have the ideas and no capital to protect or produce them.

The first time I met you was at the Season 2 casting call in Washington. I was standing before you with high hopes presenting a unique clamping table design.

While it wasn’t a fit for the show you and the other judges convinced me to keep trying. I would have loved to patent and make that table but after I tallied up the number of patents I’d need based on what your panel had told me it would have easily cost me $40.000 plus just to protect my concepts. I just do not have that kind of money. I could barely afford a single patent if I tried. So there goes another idea that may have helped our country and our economy. It’s just setting there collecting dust. Patent reform is needed and I think you are a great voice to advocate it.

As an aside, I hope Luis and I fall into your aforementioned “Soon to be famous” category. LOL!

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rjlinnovations's AvatarRest In Peace

No excuses!!!!

If you want to be a plumber or electrician you will be an apprentice for 5 years first. If you want to cut hair you will go to school and then pay for a license. You want to open a store you will open a storefront which will take an investment and maybe a contract (unless online, then you need to invest in a website) If you want to sell hot dogs you need a license and a hot dog cart, a cost of a few thousand at the very least.

What makes anyone here think that an inventor does not need a patent??? An idea needs protection or everything can be lost unless you are a BIG market DOMINANT and can secure the market by branding alone.

If you ask a company to develop, market, do all the graphics, distribute, warehouse the stock AND pay for as well as process a patent which can be headaches….well how much compensation do you think you deserve with just a POSSIBLE good idea?

If you hold the patent….YOU HOLD THE KEY TO EVERYTHING….LIKE THE KEY TO START THE CAR! You have leverage.

People are looking for a way around the $5000 or so average cost a patent can be but a patent can cost you $1000 if you care to invest enough time to read a few books on the subject. If you can’t do that….then no sympathy if you want to be in the idea business. You can even get started for a $100 provisional.

It is so good to see that a leader in this invention development, Edison Nation is so concerned on patent protection for both the inventor and the “product developer/marketer”….Edison Nation.

This means one thing for the inventors, this concern for patents…SAFETY and IDEA SECURITY.

Everyone would like their own idea of patent system improvement, I particularly most times like a long patent pending. No one knows the final claims to try and get around.

I just like to say I am impressed once again seeing Edison Nation take the largest stance on this issue that I can see on the most important issue for independent inventors.

If there were no patents…THE INDEPENDENT INVENTOR WOULD NEVER EVEN BE ABLE TO TAKE A SHOT IN THIS BUSINESS…the patent gives the small guy a ticket to get in this game!

Again, all is fine on a licensing deal until the real profits come and then the fights start. Companies and lawyers get picky. I’d rather be responsible for building/making that “key” (the patent). It gives me leverage.

I’m not talking about Edison Nation. I believe you are safe with patents and everything because if they mess with you, and they set it up that way, as we HAVE WITNESSED…we can kick them right in the shin….Mr. Foreman’s shin himself….but for negotiating with decent to large companies….get your patent ATLEAST STARTED…or let Edison Nation take care of it if you partner with them.

You could even send in a patent application yourself for $500 with NO CLAIMS and ask the examiner for help! What is the excuse? Get a provisional and then a patent application, that is $600….and that gives you OVER 3 years until the office action! Get an agent/ attorney then if you wish…but get a patent or let Edison Nation help you.

You can’t sell hot dogs without a cart now could you? Not even lemonade without a stand…so what makes you think you can get in the idea business and be SUCCESSFUL without legal protection by the USPTO?

This is why patent reform is important to all and I am happy to see Edison Nation right in the front of this protest that has been a hot issue for some recent years now….but we all have our own version of how patent law should be….I HATE first to invent…and so does the rest of the world because it is only patent law in the U.S. and nowhere else.

I don’t want some joker to come out with a ratty old notebook destroying my patent when I was serious and invested money and due diligence to make my idea commercialized when some person just drew a few pictures years ago and couldn’t be bothered with investing any more. I worked extra hours to afford my patents so I didn’t take money from the family…..no excuses. Some may say well that notebook is all I could afford…well…I’d like a big restaurant/club business…maybe a yacht chartering service…but I can’t afford. There are always investors for patent costs too….lots of options.

For $500….and 20 bucks for a couple books you can have a patent application pending for over two years before you need a professional if you don’t want to patent yourself….no excuses.

In a rare time the “little man” has a chance to “carry a big stick”…the patent…so all should use it.

Ron Komorowski
Inventor of Handi-Straps
www.handi-straps.com

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louis's Avataren_staff_badge

From US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke:

Department of Commerce Sends Letter to Congress Expressing Administration’s Views on Pending Patent Reform Legislation

WASHINGTON – Late yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke submitted a letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing the administration’s view that the draft Manager’s Amendment to existing Senate patent reform legislation will make the reforms more effective upon implementation. Reforming the patent system will accelerate economic growth and job creation, and expand America’s ability to innovate.

In the letter, Locke expressed the administration’s position that the draft Manager’s Amendment to S.515, the “Patent Reform Act of 2010,” saying that it “improves the reported bill and incorporates critical elements of patent reform.” At the same time, the administration is supportive of ongoing discussions to resolve differences between the House and the Senate on patent reform. The letter restates the administration’s commitment to work with both houses of Congress to arrive at a final bill for passage this session.

“Regardless of any issues that remain under discussion (between the House and Senate), there is a consensus that a strong patent system, including an appropriately funded and well-functioning United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), fosters innovation that drives economic growth and creates jobs,” Locke said in the letter.

The letter praises the Manager’s Amendment to S.515 for “including key provisions that fairly balance the interests of innovation and competition across all industries without favoring one industry or particular area of technology over another.” These provisions would:

• Provide authority to the USPTO to adjust patent and trademark fees as needed to reflect the USPTO’s actual costs of providing services to patent applicants.
• Establish post-grant review procedures for reviewing patent validity that provide a faster, lower-cost alternative to litigation.
• Promote international harmonization of patent laws.
• Maintain the compromise of reasonable royalty damages for patent infringement and limit opportunities for abuse in patent litigation.
• Transition our patent law to a first-inventor-to-file system.

The full letter is available on the Department of Commerce Web site: http://www.commerce.gov/NewsRoom/PressReleases_...

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pegman's Avatar

As a multi patent applicant, and one that can form an opinion too quickly… I wish I could sit in on the hearings and listen to the arguments of both sides. Maybe I better start doing some reading. The move to a “first to file” system is “I believe” the most efficient way to handle major patent law issues. The current system being a major money maker for lawyers preying on successful entrepenuers is my main reason for supporting that change.

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louis's Avataren_staff_badge

The debate is public and I encourage you to become informed. The USPTO website is a wonderful source of information. www.uspto.gov

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imajane's Avatarname search

Amen, Ralf. EN is the only way that makes any sense to me too. I’ve been told we live on Inventor Planet, though. We might be sifting through all of this with our Inventor Planet minds. Regardless, I think we all would agree that everyone benefits from ideas being shared and then hopefully developed rather than guarded and hidden with language from the Lawyer Planet.

The system should foster creativity and ingenuity. The way I was exposed to the patent system just scared the **** outa me! I was done ‘till I found EN. It just doesn’t get any better than having EN present the problem and ask for a solution. Let it sink or swim. It’s in their hands after the submission.

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chuckman's Avatar

Don’t fight it Ralf—embrace it. It’s part of your charm.

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louis's Avataren_staff_badge

Let’s not forget how important the Patent System is to the effectiveness of product licensing and Edison Nation. Without a strong system that protects intellectual property, it would be very difficult for independent inventors to get their ideas licensed by major manufacturers and retailers.

We have the opportunity to support the current adminitsration, at the USPTO, to make the system better.

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pegman's Avatar

Ralph,
I guess being the one to identify the problem, idea guy with the solution, the engineer that makes the solution work, and the entrepreneur that trys to take it to market I should get the credit. But which hat should get the credit?

Identifying the porblem is easy. Coming up with a solution-anyone can come up with “a” solution. A solution that works more often than not takes an engineer. To make a profit, takes an entrepenuer with vision, determination, and resources. In my view, the engineer (whether he is a shade tree engineer, store bought (educated), or the school of hard knocks – should get the patent if he develops, fine tunes, or improves a design. That is what a PATENT is all about.

If there is an idea guy that believes he has a solution, he can pursue a patent but its risky – what if it doesn’t work as described? An engineer will see what could be improved and then file for his own patent – as it should be. The idea guy, no matter who it is, that comes up with a working solution should be the patent holder, remember that co-inventing is a very viable solution to the “solution”.

This should bring up, what I believe should be a real concern. Should the employer, that an engineer works for, have the rights to the IP that is then created? That is how it is set up now in a majority of businesses. The creativity of one human mind owned by an entrepenuer! Just soesn’t seem right. This exact same scenario could hold true for a clerk in a flower shop that designs a new hose attachment that revolutionizes watering plants – now it’s the IP of the floral shop because of a piece of paper one signed to get a five dollar an hour job!

OK, now I’m on a roll. Next problem. What if… a patent examiner, with no experience in “said art” allows in a claim, something that is totally obvious to anyone skilled in the art, but the claim is still allowed. Now a year or two passes by, and some patent “worthless” in at least one claim is given “legal” validity and prevents other patent applications to use said art.

Boy, I’m glad I’m just a bystander. I’ve already lost too much hair just thinking about this.

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kamala's Avatar

Wow Darwin, you’ve been doing some deep research, thanks for bringing this thread up. It sounds like reform will help the entrepreneurial spirit our country so badly needs to encourage right now. any news on how the progress is going?

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marian12's Avatar

And as Lois said, if the current laws were followed and enforced, and the money left where it was intended, there would be no problem.

I know it’s popular culture to bash Big business these days, but lets face it, it’s ultimately Corporations that hold the DREAMS we are all striving for!
If big business fails, little business fails, then capitalism fails… then where are we? (right where the politicians want us it seems)
Las Vegas Invisalign

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kamala's Avatar

well, i gotta get in here too. I think big business has run amok. corporations are driven by the bottom line. I’m not saying business is pure evil, however they have waaaay too much power. We have gotten too accomodating to big business. K, i’ll get off my soap box, thanks.

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