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US: History repeats as patent law turns 224 this week

 |  April 14, 2014

US patent law officially began on April 10, 1790, when a new law allowed citizens to obtain a patent instead of relying on British patent laws. As the US celebrates the 224th birthday of its patent system, the industry is taking a look back at how far the nation has come, yet how history seems to repeat itself.

The necessity of the patent system was championed by George Washington in his first State of the Union as “the expediency of giving effectual encouragement as well to the introduction of new and useful inventions from abroad, as to the exertions of skill and genius in producing them at home.”

Since, the system of granting a 20-year exclusivity period on the agreement that the patent must be fully disclosed and in the public realm after 20 years has been challenged, debated, and heralded as the envy of the world.

In the last two centuries the nation can look in retrospect at the development of the patent system, and find some peculiar parallels between earlier patent feuds and today’s patent wars.

For example, the Wright Brothers were once criticized for their dependence on patents and could be what is considered today as “patent trolls.” Small, independent inventors were condemned for hoarding their intellectual property, and the Wright Brothers were no exception, defending their patents with lawsuits and accused of hampering innovation in flight technology.

Similar conflicts are brewing today as calls for patent reform have encouraged the White House to take on the so-called patent trolls and excess IP litigation as critics say technology companies hoard their patents for the sole purpose of suing others that use them, while the other side of the debate claims innovators deserve to preserve their intellectual property.

Full Content: IP Watchdog

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