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August 7th, 2007
That's why I'm wading into the fray. Nanotechnology is still driven by hundreds and hundreds of smart, innovative Little Guys. If America is going to continue to a global nanotechnology leader, our laws need to protect the ones who make it happen. As you can tell by the title of this column, I'm more than a little concerned. There are so many "ifs, ands, and buts" in the proposed law, I'm wondering if a patent is the best way to protect your intellectual property anymore. At my company we've long relied on trade secrets as an alternative to patents for protecting our intellectual property. And we may start doing it more.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's lay out the provisions of the legislation. The first element would replace the current system that awards patents on a "first to invent" basis with a "first to file" system. This is how all foreign patents are granted, and most big companies operating in the international arena operate this way anyway. The change alleviates the cumbersome process of the Patent Office determining the invention date when there's a dispute, so it could streamline the patent process. The downside? Decisions made by a postmark date don't favor small companies that don't have a team of patent lawyers to handle this complicated process.
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