October 15, 1997
President Clinton's Council on Sustainable Development, whose chief current goal
is to promote public acceptance of the Climate Change Treaty that Clinton will sign in
December in Kyoto, is attempting to kill two birds with one stone by linking the treaty to
Orrin Hatch's Omnibus Patent bill, S. 507. The link is "international harmonization of
intellectual property rights," which the Clinton Administration is pursuing through
Congressional bills, trade agreements, treaties, and outright giveaways.
The problem with "harmonization" of U.S. patent rights is that the Clinton
Administration wants to harmonize on the basis of unsuccessful foreign patent systems,
instead of the supremely successful American system.
Senator Hatch's Omnibus Patent bill was blasted recently at a national news
conference in Boston by a distinguished group of 26 Nobel Laureates in economics,
physics, chemistry and medicine. Remarkably, the signers of this joint statement include
lifelong antagonists Milton Friedman and Paul Samuelson.
These luminaries released an open letter to the U.S. Senate that began
unequivocally: "We urge the Senate to oppose the passage of the pending U.S. Senate
Bill 507." Their reason? "It will prove very damaging to American small inventors and
thereby discourage the flow of new inventions that have contributed so much to
America's superior performance in the advancement of science and technology."
If anybody understands the importance of innovation and creativity to the
unparalleled American achievements, it is the Nobel Laureates. And they stated flatly
that "S. 507 could result in lasting harm to the United States and the world."
Their letter praised the "wonderful institution that is represented by the American
patent system established in the Constitution in 1787, which is based on the principle that
the inventor is given complete protection for a limited length of time, after which the
patent . . . becomes in the public domain, and can be used by anyone, under competitive
conditions for the benefit of all final users."
The Nobel Laureates' letter brought out on the table the fact that S. 507 toadies to
the "large multinational corporations" at the expense of the constitutional rights of
independent inventors. Indeed, the chief advocates of S. 507 are the well-heeled lobbyists
for the multinationals who look upon independent inventors working in their garages or
bicycle shops as nuisances they would rather not deal with.
The Nobel Laureates' letter accurately defines our unique American patent system
as "a delicate structure" which "should not be subject to frequent modifications." The
letter added that "Congress, before embarking on a revision of our time-tested patent
system, should hold extensive hearings on whether there are serious flaws in the present
system that need to be addressed and, if so, how best to deal with them."
According to Dr. Dudley Herschback, 1986 Laureate in chemistry, S. 507 "would
create total chaos and of course it is conducive to fraud and deceit. This is a piracy bill."
Dr. Franco Modigliani, 1985 winner of the Economics Nobel prize, emphasized, "It is
against the spirit of the U.S. patent system which is a great economic and cultural
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), the chief opponent of patent-law
revision in the House, has received letters from foreign inventors who plead with America
not to "harmonize" our system by adopting the patent system of other countries. Foreign
inventors know only too well that the patent systems of most foreign countries are rigged
in favor of powerful vested interests and the politically well-connected and against
Our Founding Fathers created the constitutional right of inventors to the
"exclusive" ownership of their creations as a democratic right, available to every
individual. This uniquely American system is responsible for the fact that the United
States has produced 95 percent of the world's inventions.
But envious foreigners want to steal American inventions. The basic terms of S.
507 were hatched in a deal in 1994 between the late Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown
and the Japanese Ambassador.
It is noteworthy that S. 507's sponsor, Orrin Hatch, is pushing another proposal to
extend the term of songwriters' copyright protection from 50 to 70 years beyond the
author's life. Hatch has a personal interest in that bill; he holds the copyright on a
compact disc of religious songs he wrote.
So, Senator Hatch wants to protect the property rights of songwriters for 70 years,
but strip away the rights of inventors only 18 months after their patent applications are
filed, whether or not the patent is ever granted!
Senator Hatch has tried to mollify critics of S. 507 by amending it, but the bill is so
bad that no amendments can make it acceptable. S. 507 would open up all existing
patents to reexamination, and it would put the Patent Office under a board of directors
dominated by representatives of the multinational corporations.
Senator Hatch needs to be told that inventors' creations are entitled to at least as
much protection as songwriters'.