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Lawyer warns on major U.S. patent law change

By by Liu Si (Xinhua)

08:27, August 24, 2011

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- An intellectual property lawyer has sounded alarm bells over a fundamental change to patent law currently before the U.S. Senate.

The U.S. Senate will vote early September on a proposal that will replace the current first-to-invent system with first-to-file.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, Los Angeles patent and intellectual property lawyer Li Bin said he did not believe the United States should adopt the change.

"I believe that the current U.S. system is healthier and is fairer to the inventors and is far more encouraging to those new inventors to invent new inventions," said Li, from Bin Li and Associates in California.

"It is more reasonable that those who made the invention first should be entitled to the intellectual property rights instead of whoever files first," he said.

If the first-to-file provision went into effect, big companies, especially those in the IP and IT industries, would have many advantages since they owned hundreds or thousands of patents, Li said.

The lawyer admitted the provision reform might help big companies cut their litigation expenses so they could pay more attention to invention. However, he pointed out the reform was probably going to "discourage a lot of small inventors from inventing because they don't have the time; they don't have the money to fight the big companies for the inventions."

If big companies got wind of good inventions, they had the resources to file first and this would dramatically discourage a lot of small inventors, he said.

The current law grants the patent to the applicant who can demonstrate they came up with the idea first. But many other nations adopt a first-to-file system, which awards priority based on the patent-applying date. The Chinese patent system is also a first to file system and patent applications may be filed in the name of a corporation or an individual.

High-tech companies are divided on the issue. Microsoft and trade groups such as the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) support the legislation reform. But Dell, Cisco and some others are opposed to it.

To prevent patent lawsuits, Google announced earlier this month its decision to buy Motorola Mobility Holdings for 12.5 billion U.S. dollars. The move was not aimed at acquiring the cellphone company's technology but its trove of 17,000 patents, analysts say.

Earlier in June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amended version of America Invents Act to reform U.S. patent laws. The bill now goes to the Senate for reconciliation. It is widely believed the Senate will pass the reform and President Barack Obama has indicated he will sign the act into law.

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