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Washington Newsletter - Patents
October 4, 1965 Electronics Magazine Article

October 4, 1965 Electronics

October 4, 1965 Electronics Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Electronics, published 1930 - 1988. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

Just to remind you that patent laws are continually being monkeyed with by lawmakers and challenged in court by litigants, here is a news item from a 1965 issue of Electronics magazine reporting on a Supreme Court case brought by Hazeltine Research regarding their patent application for a microwave switch. Evidently over time the Supreme Court had been raising the bar on patent filings by requiring a higher degree of uniqueness for new inventions. The 1952 U.S. Patent Act, enacted by the U.S. Congress, simplified the terms of claims for new patents, thus making them easier to obtain, but according to critics, making new patents less valuable in the process. Now (in 1965), the Supreme court was moving itself back to ward the pre-1952 criteria. Judicial activism, anyone? In a related news item, the military was in the process of relaxing penalties on contractors who did not file for patent protection within the prescribed amount of time on project-related inventions.

Washington Newsletter - Patents

Court to Review Patent Standards

The Supreme Court which begins its fall term this morning, has agreed to review a battery of cases concerning "standards of patentability" in inventions. Patent lawyers think that a major tightening of the system may result. Before the Congress passed the 1952 Patent Act, the court was beginning to demand a high degree of invention over existing art to justify a patent; the question now is whether Congress intended to reverse that trend and make patents easier to get, but less valuable. At least four members of the present court have indicated that they lean toward an interpretation of the law that would revert to the pre-1952 stand; thus increasing the competitive value of a patent.

In one of the five cases before the court, the Patent Office argues that lower courts apply a tax standard of invention which "seriously impairs efforts to maintain a predominantly competitive economy, by creating countless unnecessary and unwarranted monopolies."

One of the cases involves Hazeltine Research, Inc.'s application for a patent on a microwave switch. The Patent Office rejected the application on the ground that it wasn't a significant advance over prior art as represented by a co-pending patent. A lower court reversed this ruling on the ground that Hazeltine wasn't aware of the previous patent application and couldn't have taken that new development into account. The company is a subsidiary of the Hazeltine Corp.

DOD to Relax Invention Rules

After hearing industry's objections, the Defense Department has decided to relax its proposed penalties against companies that are slow to report inventions made during government work. The department drew up tough regulations - and asked industry to comment on them - after the General Accounting Office accused several contractors of either failing to disclose inventions or delaying disclosure for unreasonable periods.

A plan to assess damages of up to $5,000 for each day of failure to report an invention beyond a six-month time limit is being dropped. Contractors had objected on the ground that it is difficult to determine precisely when an invention is conceived.

Still under study is a plan to stiffen the withholding of final contract payments to the contractor. The Pentagon originally planned to change the present withholding rate, which is 10% of the final payment up to a maximum of $10,000, to 5% with no ceiling. Industry clamored for a ceiling, and one of between $10,000 and $50,000 is being considered.

The Pentagon still plans to require that contractors forfeit any rights in patents they obtained on unreported inventions.



Posted October 14, 2018

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