Inventors like Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla obtained patents to protect their many inventions, which in turn grew the U.S. economy. Today their inventions would easily be dismissed by courts as not even eligible for patenting. The lightbulb and alternating current generators would be characterized as either abstract, a law of nature or a building block of technology. Modern critics would minimize the magnitude of their inventions by saying that these great inventors simply had a good idea and told the world to apply it.
The Stronger Patents Act helps move the patent system back toward inventors by clarifying the rules around an open-ended administrative patent court that Congress created in 2011. Since the creation of the new administrative court, the administrative boondoggle has been used by infringers, crony interests, and Big Tech to help stifle innovation and harm inventors.
Far more inventions could qualify for patents in the US if a reform bill making its way through the Senate becomes law. The changes would not only increase the disconnect between European and American rules on what can be patented. They also have the potential to stifle innovation and create greater uncertainty for companies that want to protect their intellectual property globally, experts warn.
Since our country’s founding, the U.S. patent system has been one of the unsung heroes of America’s success story. Patents are based on a simple concept: that American inventors, entrepreneurs and companies whose hard work and expertise lead to a new invention deserve to reap the benefits of their work for a limited time.
The U.S. is losing its advantage to China and other countries when it comes to innovations related to artificial intelligence, blockchain and other key technology, according to an analysis of patent filings over the past decade. While American inventors still command the largest portion of the nation’s patents, the percentage is dropping in the high-tech fields, according to a yearlong study conducted by the law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP and researchers at GreyB Services Pte.
There is broad support in the United States for faster economic growth--a goal that ultimately depends on boosting labor productivity. In the long run, that requires more innovation, a big component of which comes from private research and development (R&D). But what, if anything, can countries do to increase domestic innovation?
If technology is advancing crazy fast, why aren’t those advances showing up in the broader productivity and economic growth numbers? Or as economists Erik Brynjolfsson, Daniel Rock, and Chad Syverson describe this mystery in their 2017 paper “Artificial Intelligence and the Modern Productivity Paradox: A Clash of Expectations and Statistics:”
Mitch Hungerpiller thought he had a first-class solution for mail that gets returned as undeliverable, a common problem for businesses that send lots of letters. But the process he helped develop and built his small Alabama technology company around has resulted in a more than decadelong fight with the U.S. Postal Service, which says his solution shouldn't have been patentable.
The increase in U.S. patents comes as the U.S. and China are embroiled in a trade war with a sticking point over Chinese firm’s accessing the intellectual property of U.S. tech companies. The report noted the increase in patents also marks a shift in how tech companies are operating in China. As one example, the report pointed to Huawei, which has beefed up its internal research and development as it aims to expand around the globe.
As it has for the past quarter century, IBM today topped the charts for U.S. patent holders, with 9,100 patents granted in 2018. This is the 26th consecutive year that IBM has claimed the number one spot on the annual list of U.S. patent recipients.