Patents--rights that governments grant to inventors for new inventions--pervade the modern world. The US alone grants about 300,000 of them annually, mostly for components of, or methods relating to, larger end products. Your smartphone, for example, contains thousands of patented features; but even many seemingly simpler items, such as cosmetics, often contain one or more.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) recognized a milestone of human ingenuity this week that perhaps even the Founding Fathers’ never anticipated: granting the 10 millionth patent. The Founding Fathers who drafted the Constitution understood that strong, enforceable inventor rights are necessary “[t]o promote the progress of science and useful arts,” and went on to establish the U.S. patent system in 1790. Since then, intellectual property protections have been the driver of America’s unique culture of innovation.
No company has been more prolific with patents than IBM. It received 9,043 patents in 2017, marking its 25th consecutive year of dominating the patent rankings -- a fact IBM is not bashful about sharing. This year, it is on pace to top 10,000 patents, according to projections provided to CNNMoney by IFI Claims.
The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) yesterday issued its ten millionth patent, for a laser detection system. The patent, called “Coherent ladar using intra-pixel quadrature detection”, was granted to technology and innovation company Raytheon and was invented by Raytheon principal engineering fellow Joseph Marron.
The next wave of technological innovation is shaping up differently. China’s rulers have identified the industries they want to dominate this century, from robotics to biotechnology and artificial intelligence, or AI. Chinese firms with a project in those fields don’t have to sweat through pitches to venture capitalists: government coffers are open.
After nearly five days of deliberations, a U.S. jury on Thursday said Samsung Electronics Co Ltd should pay $539 million to Apple Inc for copying patented smartphone features, according to court documents, bringing a years-long feud between the technology companies into its final stages.
Innovation has been the lifeblood of America since the country’s founding fathers established a patent office in 1790. In recent years, the pace of innovation has certainly increased, especially for engineers who design chips and systems. We have now reached a point where the 10 millionth utility patent is about to be granted.
Wild remains bullish on the U.S., however, saying that he thinks too many Americans are unnecessarily pessimistic about the U.S. patent system because America, as a free country with a free economy, has certain advantages that simply cannot be replicated by China, or even Europe for that matter.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday gave its stamp of approval to a government review process prized by high technology companies as an easy and cheap way to combat “patent trolls” and others that bring patent infringement lawsuits. The justices ruled 7-2 that a type of in-house patent review at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office does not violate a defendant’s right under the U.S. Constitution to have a case adjudicated by a federal court and jury.
Congress should be working to grow the economy instead of weakening it. And, with the introduction of the STRONGER Patents Act, they might just be doing that. What does it take to grow the economy? In some ways that question can be almost insurmountable, but in others it is just common sense.