Journal of Intellectual Property Law


The paper is from a 2008 Symposium at the University of Georgia devoted to the book by James Bessen and Michael J. Meurer, "Patent Failure: How Judges, Bureaucrats, and Lawyers Put Innovators At Risk". The paper provides an Overall Comment as to the conclusions of the book, Topical Comments as to specific items in the book, and then concludes with the author's proposals for Patent Reform to Foster Innovation.

The Overall Comment notes that the conclusions of the Bessen-Meurer book are sound. The U.S. patent system is not working for innovators or consumers. But the problems of the U.S. patent system go beyond the "imperfect notice" problem noted by the book's authors.

Not addressed by the book is the question of to what extent, if any, is patent ownership essential for innovation. References cited in the book suggest that patents owned by innovators are only infrequently important for innovation, and patents owned by others than the innovator can be impediments to innovation. The policy suggestion that flows the foregoing is that a patent system that fosters innovation requires high standards for patentability that result in fewer marginal patents to impede innovation.

The Topical Comments note, among other things, that the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit was established (in 1982) despite the recommendation against a specialist patent court by the Hruska Commission in 1975, and that it almost immediately lowered the standards for patentability in the United States despite assurances to the contrary.

The Two Fundamental Patent Reforms proposed by the author are (1) restoration to patent law of a self-correcting structure like that which applies to most other areas of federal law, and (2) enabling the United States Patent & Trademark Office to obtain final decisions as to the patentability of applications it has examined. The former reform can be accomplished by adopting the Nard-Duffy proposal for parallel appellate tracks for patent appeals or by restoring appellate jurisdiction in patent infringement cases to the regular courts of appeals. The latter reform can be achieved by abolishing all forms of continuing patent applications except for divisional applications filed pursuant to a 35 U.S.C. § 121 requirement for restriction so as to eliminate the ability of patent applicants to evade such final decisions.