It is often said that patent law is the sport of kings. O.k., it's not, but it should be.
Patent attorneys cost a great deal more than ordinary counsel, as they typically hold degrees in both law and a science. For small time inventors, this often results in a cost benefit analysis when it comes to patent enforcement. It also begs the question: what good is a patent if you can't afford to enforce it?
One could image a number of effects that this might have on American innovation and invention. For one, inventors might just become discouraged. Why continue to innovate when someone else with more money will simply replicate? Another possibility is that inventors will be forced to chose between either allowing infringement, or selling their patent at a reduced value to larger companies with bigger budgets.
We are a nation that prides itself on invention, innovation, and ingenuity. Our legal system should theoretically encourage our inventors by increasing access to requisite legal services to enforce patent rights. Enter the America Invents Act of 2011:
"The [PTO] Director shall work with and support intellectual property law associations across the country in the establishment of pro bono programs designed to assist financially under-resourced independent inventors and small businesses."
The first pro bono program to be established under this mandate will be the Federal Circuit Bar Association's Pro Bono initiative. According to Bloomberg, clearinghouses have been set up by the FCBA in Minnesota, Colorado, California, and Texas. At least ten more are expected in 2013.
Instead of dozens of autonomous offices, for logistical reasons, requests for services will have to be made to the FCBA's central office via their website. Attorneys interested in providing services can also sign up on the FCBA's website.
- What All GCs Should Know About the America Invents Act (FindLaw's In House Blog)
- America Invents Act: Patents Now Awarded to First to File (FindLaw's In House Blog)
- Patent Reforms: Good for Small Businesses? (FindLaw's Free Enterprise Blog)