Date: Wed, 7 Feb 1996 13:14:21 -0800
From: Phil Karn 
Cc: karn
Subject: Serious Problems with the US Patent System

Dear Congressman Bilbray,

The US Patent Office is seriously out of control.

Thousands of overly broad patents on trivial, obvious and nonnovel "inventions" in my field are routinely granted every year. The direct and indirect costs of these bad patents are incalculable: legal fees, extortionate royalty payments, increased R&D costs and inhibited innovation. All are passed onto the public as higher prices and fewer choices. This is not what the patent system is supposed to do!

Nearly two years ago the US Patent Office asked the public for comments on whether the standards of obviousness as currently applied to patent applications had been inappropriately lowered. This followed hearings on the controversial issue of patent protection for computer software. I have found nearly unanimous agreement among my peers and even among the patent attorneys I know that present standards for issuing patents are indeed far too weak, and that patents on software should be abolished entirely.

I prepared a detailed response to the PTO call and filed it before the August 1994 deadline. I have yet to see any formal published response on the issue from the Patent Office.

I suspect that the public response was so overwhelmingly negative that the Patent Office is now avoiding the issue entirely. It is probably unrealistic to expect the Patent Office bureaucracy to initiate on its own the drastic reforms that are needed.

The Congress has just wisely recognized that telecommunications service monopolies are antithetical to the public interest. I respectfully suggest that it also seriously consider the more subtle but equally real effects of the many thousands of unwarranted patent monopolies granted every year.


				Philip R. Karn

Att: Comments to the USPTO