Time for a Change in US Patent Law?

Wed, 06/24/2009 - 6:00am
Michael Orey
Editor's Note: The system definitely needs reform, but what kind? 

(Business Week) - Critics of the U.S. patent system have high hopes that 2009 might be the year Congress acts to amend it. But their lobbying has failed for years, so John F. Duffy sees another path to change: litigation. "I've thought a lot about reform of the patent system through the courts," says the George Washington University Law School professor. "It's not like the courts can't adjust in this area."

Duffy, 45, should know. Two years ago, in a case known as KSR, he helped win the most important U.S. Supreme Court ruling on patent law in 40 years, making it harder to patent readily apparent inventions. And on June 1, the high court agreed to review another hugely important case with which Duffy has been involved, dealing with what kinds of business methods can be patented.

While teaching and scholarship are his primary focuses, Duffy has served as legal counsel to such companies as Goldman Sachs (GS), Bank of America (BAC), Intel (INTC), and Yahoo! (YHOO) in other cases that challenge established doctrine. "He seems to have the discipline to keep his own personal opinion isolated, which I appreciate because there are lots of people who are long on opinions and short on analysis," says Chief Judge Paul R. Michel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which hears all patent appeals.

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