As the Senate is poised to vote on the bipartisan Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, U.S. Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank and Patent and Trademark Office Director David Kappos will celebrate another remarkable milestone tomorrow morning — the issuance of U.S. patent No. 8,000,000.
Patent No. 8 million offers a dramatic technological contrast to the very first US.. patent, signed by President George Washington on July 31, 1790, and issued to inventor Samuel Hopkins for a new way of making potash, an ingredient used in fertilizer. Granted to Second Sight Medical Products, Inc., the new patent is for an apparatus that enhances vision for people who are going blind due to the degeneration of light-detecting cells in their eyes. It uses a miniature video camera mounted on a pair of glasses to do the work of the eye’s retina, transforming incoming light into electrical stimulation that in turn creates visual images in the brain.
The signing and presentation of patent No. 8 million will take place at the Smithsonian American Art Museum on Thursday morning. Last night, the Senate voted 93-5 to invoke cloture on a patent reform bill that had already passed the House with broad, bipartisan support — a bill that would be a major step forward in improving our Nation’s competitiveness and economic prosperity, and one we hope will soon land on the President’s desk without amendment so it can be enacted without delay.
America’s innovators, entrepreneurs and business owners consistently tell us that their ideas are held up for too long in the patent backlog and that costly patent litigation is an obstacle to progress and job creation. The America Invents Act will help boost patent quality, reduce the backlog of patent applications at the USPTO, and cut costs for American companies—increasing America’s international competitiveness while supporting the creation of new jobs. The legislation will create greater certainty and objectivity in acquiring intellectual property rights, reduce costly litigation that often hinders small businesses as they develop their products, and make it easier for innovators to bring their inventions to the global marketplace.
As President Obama said in his 2011 State of the Union address: "The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation. . . . What we can do — what America does better than anyone else — is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We're the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn't just change our lives. It is how we make our living.”
I am hopeful that the President will have the opportunity to sign this historic legislation in the coming days in support of his Strategy for American Innovation — which, above all, aims to create jobs of the future in 21st century industries. Unlocking the potential of U.S. inventors will help America out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.
Quentin Palfrey is Senior Advisor to the CTO for Jobs and Competitiveness