There's a patent war raging between the big technology companies, and no one seems to doubt the need for a reform of the patent laws. Last night the Senate passed a long awaited reform bill, the America Invents Act, reports The New York Times's Edward Wyatt. "After rejecting proposed amendments to a bill approved by the House last June, the Senate voted 89 to 9 to pass the bill, completing an effort of at least six years to overhaul the patent office’s operations and the procedures by which patents can be challenged." President Obama is expected to sign the legislation, "a central piece of his focus on promoting jobs," soon. Patent reform advocates hoping legislation would have an impact on innovation and halt big companies from buying up patents and suing competitors, will be disappointed by this bill, which has limited provisions that actually help big companies. That's because this legislation isn't really about innovation; it's about a much higher priority: jobs. The America Invents Act will not fix the broken inventing process, but it will apparently benefit businesses, and that's good enough for the Senate. Sounds great. Unfortunately, the types of jobs it will create aren't the ones we want.
The bill's main provisions include changing the system from a "first to invent" to a "first to file" system, which Senator Patrick Leahy claims will improve patent quality and thus "benefit business across the economic spectrum," reports Wyatt. The thinking goes that the previous rule caused a lot of bad patents, which suffocated innovation and thus job creation, and led to expensive legal disputes. The new rule "will eliminate costly legal disputes over who invented something first" explains The Wall Street Journal's Amy Schatz. This creates jobs on two levels. First, as Senator Leahy argues, it means we will have better inventions. "Higher-quality patents will infuse greater certainty into the patent system, which will better incentivize investment in American businesses, create jobs and grow our economy." But really, it just employs a lot of lawyers, argues Ars Technica's Timothy B. Lee. "It's popular with large companies because they can afford to hire full-time patent attorneys to help them file patent applications quickly."