One of the few parts of the U.S. Constitution that is still followed by the government concerns the granting of copyrights and patents. Article I, Section 8, reads, “Congress shall have the power . . . To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”
Currently in U.S. law, a “utility patent,” for a “useful” invention, lasts 20 years; while a “design patent,” such as for industrial design, lasts 17 years. The aim remains to encourage investment in developing new products, processes, and designs.
I know several patent attorneys in Orange County, California, who are involved largely in medical devices. That industry still leads the world despite the new 15-percent tax imposed on it by Obama Care. They’re smart guys, usually engineers before they took up law, at the upper end of legal compensation. They keep the machinery of commerce rolling by helping the courts assign patent ownership, which allows everyone else to use the inventions for specific, predictable fees.
Unfortunately, as with other parts of the legal system, parasites have invaded. A “non-practicing entity” (NPE) doesn’t actually make anything except lawsuits. Opponents dub NPEs “patent trolls.” This...