What does Patent Reform mean for Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs?

The recent passage of the long-awaited Patent Reform bill was heralded by many around the country as great accomplishment; however, the bill was not without controversy, particularly in the Silicon Valley, where many who work with start-ups and tech companies expressed concern about the new legislation.

In my recent blog posting on the California Biotech Law Blog, I raised concerns about whether or not this bill was really good for the biotech industry. As you might expect, my concerns about the bill go beyond its effect on the biotech community--my concerns are relevant to the Silicon Valley start-up community as well.

It has yet to be seen as to whether or not the legislation will really improve the operations of the USPTO as promised, but the passage of this legislation has an immediate effect on inventors and start-ups, who now have to race to gather the capital necessary to file a patent on their invention, so that they can ensure that they are the first to file a patent on the invention. Like many who work with start-ups, I worry that this hurdle will now discourage innovation, particularly in these challenging economic times, since investors and loans are so difficult to come by. Why make the effort to invent at all if it is going to be such a challenge to protect your invention?

In truth, despite my concerns about this new legislation, I have faith that Silicon Valley entrepreneurs will overcome this hurdle as they do so many others. The Silicon Valley is a resilient place where people are used to overcoming challenges and setbacks. However, I remain puzzled as to why Congress chose to finally pass this bill, which had been introduced and debated by many prior Congresses. Why impose this new hurdle on inventors at this point in history during this economic crisis? Shouldn't our policy be to encourage innovation at every opportunity so that we can get new businesses going that create new jobs? Placing new hurdles on cash-strapped inventors and start-ups in this economy just seems to defy common sense.

To see the full text of the American Invents Act of 2011, click here.

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