Silicon Valley: Patent reform passed by Senate

San Francisco Chronicle

The Senate overwhelmingly approved a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. patent system on Tuesday, over the objections of much of Silicon Valley and warnings from California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer that the legislation could harm small inventors.

The National Academy of Sciences also recommended a first-to-file system to help inventors compete in a global market. UC Berkeley law Professor Robert Merges said concerns among small inventors are wildly overblown. They would be able to file placeholder applications and have a year to hone their inventions, he said.

Pamela Samuelson, director of UC Berkeley's Center for Law and Technology, said in an e-mail that the United States and the Philippines are the only nations that have first-to-invent systems.

"The international norm is that the first inventor to file gets a patent," Samuelson said. "The economic arguments in favor of the first-to-file system are strong and the 'little guy' inventor story that this rule favors big firms is really a myth."