December 18, 2013 | By Daniel Nazer

Looking at the Big Patent Picture in Boulder, Colorado

Earlier this month, we joined a small group of thinkers and stakeholders—including Rep. Jared Polis—in Boulder to discuss software patent reform (special thanks to the Foundry Group and Jason Mendelson for hosting!). With the Innovation Act having overwhelmingly passed in the House of Representatives just the day before and the Supreme Court stating it would take up the topic of abstract software patents that morning, the symposium was very timely.

The Boulder event brought together representatives from large and small tech companies (from Microsoft to Modular Robotics), patent prosecutors, litigators, Congressman Polis, a judge, engineers, venture capitalists, the Open Source Hardware Association, and more. Panels discussed the history of software patents and how patents impact businesses today. Proposals ranged from simple reforms (such as better funding for the Patent Office) to fundamental changes (such as moving from patents to an entirely new system to protect software).

Although participants at the Boulder Patent Symposium brought many different perspectives on both the contours of the problem and potential solutions, we had a detailed and productive conversation. No idea found universal support but some of the more popular and thought-provoking proposals included:

  • Increase patent renewal fees (because patent trolls overwhelmingly assert patents during the final years of their term)
  • Requiring patent applicants to explain and precisely claim the point of novelty in their invention
  • A shorter term for software patents
  • Requiring patentees to demonstrate efforts to commercialize their invention by a certain date (such as five years after issuance) to maintain protection

While we strongly support the Innovation Act, we believe that further reform will be needed to bring the patent system into the 21st century and deal with the fundamental problem of low-quality software patents. Events like the Boulder Symposium are a great way to start the conversation. We were thrilled to help organize the event, and we thank Rep. Polis for his continued thoughtful leadership.


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