Winston & Strawn intellectual property and litigation partner David Bloch, based in the San Francisco office, was quoted in an article titled "Small Inventors Oppose Efforts to 'Harmonize' U.S. Patent Law," that was published in the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal on July 24, 2009.
The article discusses three patent-reform bills, currently in committee in the Senate and the House, that will bring the United States system from its current "first-to-invent" method of granting patents to be in alignment with the "first-to-file" method employed on a global level. The United States' method is the only one that grants patents to the first person or company to invent something, rather than on a first-to-file method. The process of bringing the U.S. into alignment is being referred to as a harmonization of the patent granting methods.
According to the article, those in favor of the first-to-file method say it minimizes the uncertainty and controversy that arise when opposing sides dispute when a new technology is invented. Small companies and individual inventors, however, claim the first-to-file method favors big corporations with more access to legal resources.
"Everywhere else in the world it's first-to-file, period, and that can create conflicts between patent applications in the U.S. and patent applications elsewhere," Bloch said. "A first inventor here (in the United States) can trump a first filer in Europe and you end up getting significant deadweight economic losses arising from the lack of harmonization."
"This is one of those chips the United States has held onto for a long, long time and eventually they're going to have to spend it," Bloch said. "Harmonization will probably carry the day."