Patent Reform

I’m considering joining the United States Pirate Party but one reservation I have is in regards to their position on patents. Some Pirates are advocating for the elimination of all patents. I think this could be a mistake since patents can sometimes enable a small or new business to enter a market where there are large established incumbents. Without a patent there may not be a realistic way for them to raise the money necessary to equip a factory for manufacturing their product. Sharing the idea with an incumbent that does have the money to manufacture could lead to the idea leaking out in the industry without the inventors being able to profit.

Patents can also help the general public by encouraging inventors to make their designs immediately public, with an obligation to release the idea into the public domain at the termination of the patent. This does not occur when an idea is kept as a trade secret. A well guarded trade secret may obstruct research in areas related to a product and may be keep secret for as long as a company can manage to do so.

I propose the following reforms:

1. Patents should protect inventors from unlicensed commercial use only. Research uses and personal uses should be allowed. Perhaps even non-profit use should be allowed within reasonable restrictions (e.g. The non-profit must obtain 501(c)(3) status and the patent must be used for an approved charitable purpose).

2. Every licensing deal for a patent must be registered with the government and published for public review.

3. If a licensing deal deviates substantially from a previous licensing deal (e.g. >10% price difference?) then the patent holder must issue a public explanation accounting for the difference.

With a public registry, an individual or company that is planning a new product should be able to better forecast licensing costs. Also, providing a registry with explanations for substantial deviations in licensing terms may provide some deterrence against patent holders using their patent monopoly in exploitative ways.