I dislike the patent system in its present form. I believe that patents last much longer than they ought to. I think that genuinely independent re-invention should be a valid defence in cases of infringement. I think that most patents granted are for things that are so obvious that they should not be patentable, but a lot of examiners are not in a position to make a good judgement about what would be obvious to someone who is "ordinarily skilled in the art" of a specialist field of engineering because a lot of examiners themselves have engineering skills that would not be considered up to the standard of "ordinary" by specialists in the fields of endeavour that many inventions involve. One day in the coffee room at work, a colleague explanied to me the problem he was working on, and over the next few minutes I suggested to him several ways of solving this problem, but my colleague told me that each of those solutions was already patented. If the examiner were allowed to send to a panel of five experienced engineers a document containing a summary of the goals and motivation of the supposed invention but not containing any disclosure of the details and claims of the supposed invention, and if the engineers were mostly able to guess each claim of the invention within a few minutes, then I think this might be a practical way of proving that a supposed invention is either well known or not sufficiently inventive. I am disgusted by the many patents that have been granted recently for old textbook circuits or for circuits that were previously patented by someone else under a slightly different title. Furthermore, I feel that patent examiners and the patent office have not enough incentive to look properly for prior art, since they get paid more (in the form of granting fees) if they fail to find prior art that exists, yet they stand to lose very little in the case that they grant a patent that they should not grant. I feel that companies that subsequently infringe a patent bear too much of the risk or cost when an invalid patent has been granted. I believe that if the patent office or the examiner risked a fine for granting a bad patent that were similar in size to the penalty that a company or engineer could receive for infringing a patent, then the standard of examination would improve. I believe that too many monetary and procedural obstacles are put in the way of anyone who knows of prior art and wishes to invalidate a bogus patent (it should be free to do this and there should even be a monetary reward when the patent is invalidated, as it is a service to all other citizens who would then have the use of the newly unpatentable invention at lower cost). I believe that the extra work of searching for patents that any new product might infringe is a huge cost to the economy, and is a massive waste of the time and effort of some of the most skilled people in the world. In my own employment as an electronics engineer, I have had to try hard not to use any circuits that are even slightly inventive unless I have to, because using an inferior circuit from a 20 year old standard textbook avoids the risk of infringing any valid patents, whereas if I come up with my own circuit then I would have to perform a very time consuming search for other people's patents on the same idea, and even if I perform this search perfectly it still leads to uncertainty because there may have been a patent application already submitted by someone else that has not yet been published.
In spite of this disincentive to invent, from time to
time during my employment I have of necessity had to come up with a few
circuits that I could not find in old textbooks, and due to the
of my employers I have had to apply for patents on these,
as either the inventor or a co-inventor. Here is a list of patents with
my name on them (though I don't own them):
US6891412 Loop filter for a PLL that
achieves good noise performance in spite of small capacitor values
US7323922 Digitally Controlled Gain Stage having an Analogue Control Input
US7750749 "Switching Circuit, and a Modulator, Demodulator or Mixer Including Such a Circuit"
US7548051 "Low Drop Out Voltage Regulator"
US7038552 "Voltage Controlled Oscillator having Improved Phase Noise"