In yesterday’s edition, the Chicago Tribune published a commentary on the Patent Reform Act of 2007 by Cummins-Allison Corp.’s Chairman William J. Jones — Cummins-Allison is based in Mt. Prospect, Illinois and develops and distributes coin and currency handling/counting machines. Jones has strong feelings about the Act and offers some unique opinions. First, he is against "harmonizing" US law with international patent laws, arguing that the European and Japanese systems are "parochial." He also makes the, in my experience unfair although widely held, argument that the Chinese system "specializes in intellectual property theft." I believe if you look at recent Chinese cases or the experts on Chinese IP law — like the excellent IP Dragon — you will see that China has become increasingly willing to protect the intellectual property of foreign entities, as long as the entities have invested in the necessary Chinese patents, trademarks, etc.
Jones notes that at the recent Congressional hearings, no manufacturing firms testified, despite some interesting statistics:
U.S. manufacturers undertake 60 to 70 percent of the nation’s research and development and hold 60 percent of its patents.
* * *
. . . . Roughly one-third of all patent applications are made by independent inventors, small manufacturers, universities and non-profit research groups. Their efforts are crucial for leading-edge scientific advances, and their views should be heard.
Jones is against the proposed post-grant review process because he believes it will diminish the value of patents by making their strength very uncertain. He also suggests that instead of giving an "overburdened" PTO broad, new rule-making powers, Congress should fully fund the PTO so that it can hire and retain a high quality staff of sufficient size to expedite the prosecution of patent applications. Finally, Jones points to what he believes is the diverse opposition to the Act, which he argues warrants taking the time for additional, robust debate.
Jones has some very strong views, not all of which I agree with. But I do not see how additional debate and discussion could harm the Act at this point. There are some strong dissenting voices, the Federal Circuit’s Judge Michel for example.