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Revising The Patent System

November 12, 2007 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 85, ISSUE 46

The article regarding the new patent reform legislation reveals the justified concerns about that legislation and its potentially damaging effects in weakening patent protections (C&EN, Sept. 17, page 7).

This is not a time in history when Congress should be weakening the patent system. Indeed, the current challenges to the U.S. and the world in terms of global warming, dependence upon fossil fuels from unstable and undemocratic regions of the world, and the health care challenges of an ever-expanding and aging population suggest that Congress may be missing a historic opportunity to spark innovative solutions to these problems by strengthening patents and even increasing the term of patents in certain new areas of technology such as pioneering alternative energy sources and breakthrough medicines.

Our own history reveals that American innovation has consistently been a key source of our own prosperity and a stalwart ally of our democracy. It is also our scientific prowess that has often confounded and anguished the totalitarian and terrorist entities that have opposed us.

A revised patent system that would offer extended rewards for investment in truly new and innovative energy sources, as well as new cures for diseases, would likely produce greater wealth and a higher standard of living than most anything else that Congress could do. More than anything, it is our intellectual creativity that has and will propel us forward. As Winston Churchill presciently noted many decades ago, "The empires of the future are the empires of the mind."

So, as Congress tinkers with and likely weakens our patent system, one can rightfully, but hopefully temporarily, lament their seeming lack of imagination and appreciation for the extensive economic, environmental, and national security benefits that could be derived from a creatively strengthened patent system and an invigorated American engine of innovation.

Jason A. Lief
New York City



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