Reform: Fine Patent Holders for Valid Prior Art
Here's an idea: when prior art is found that invalidates any claim on a patent, the Patent Office could require a significant fee from the patent holder. A large chunk of this fee is then turned over to the submitter of the prior art, as a bounty. The rest is kept by the Patent Office to cover the cost of the re-examination, plus a little extra to reward the examiner. If the patent holder refuses to pay the fee, the entire patent is invalidated. If the entire patent were invalidated by the prior art anyway, a freeze is placed on all other patents held by the patentee, essentially causing a temporary moratorium on the power of the patentee to enforce any of its patents.
Such a reform (or one very much like it), would provide three incentives that are currently lacking:
- The patent applicant would be more incentivized to do a really thorough job of searching for prior art before applying, since any holes here could come back to be very costly.
- Third parties would have an economic incentive to search for prior art, at no cost to the USPTO.
- The USPTO would have an internal, economic incentive to perform more re-examinations (to counter-balance the current incentive to let patents stand for 20 years so that renewal fees keep coming in annually).
- The Independent Invention Defense
- Patent Reform via Open Source
- Two-tiered Patents: Weaken Presumption of Validity
- Internal USPTO Reform
- Premature Patent Expiration
- Patent Commons