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U.S. can't afford to mar innovation

Proposed patent reforms mean less protection for the underdog.

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Ever wonder why the US now turns the clock back one hour right after Halloween? According to a book by Michael Downing, it's largely due to the candy lobby that spent much time and money giving out candy-filled pumpkins and making election donations to members of Congress.

Similar forces are at work in another Washington debate that threatens to turn back the clock on innovation as early as February: the so-called Patent Reform Act of 2007. Despite the fact that improvement in some fashion is needed, this sweeping reform, if made law, will undermine the core of the patent system in the United States. It will mean weaker protection for small inventors, university researchers, and entrepreneurs across America.

The frequent characterization of the issue as a struggle between big pharmaceutical companies (against this reform) and the high-tech computer industry (for this reform) is not quite right. In fact, just a handful of high-tech giants – Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, Oracle, and Dell – support the proposed reforms. Small high-tech companies – the true innovators of this industry – overwhelmingly reject them as do innovators from other industries.

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