When the framers of the Constitution charged Congress with "securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries," they couldn't have dreamed how complex intellectual property protection would become.
More than two centuries later the copyright, trademark and patent systems set in motion by that well-intentioned clause both vex and reward American businesses. On the one hand, IP litigation can be budget-busting. On the other, the value of protection for a company's creations and inventions can be almost limitless.
The stakes are high, and the impact on the economy is significant. As a result, both Congress and the Supreme Court are taking a new look at IP law.
"We are at an unprecedented time of governmental attention to these issues," says Alan Fisch, partner in Kaye Scholer's IP Practice. "The legislative branch is attempting to undertake what is +arguably the most significant patent law change in 50 years. On the judicial side the Supreme Court's last session devoted a higher percentage of its cases to IP issues than ever before."
As legislators and justices craft changes in the system, corporate America does not speak with one voice. For example the pending Patent Reform Act pits the pharmaceutical and high-tech industries against each other. So it's not surprising that when we polled InsideCounsel readers on IP issues, we got some mixed responses.
Overall, respondents to The InsideCounsel/Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione IP Survey seem reasonably satisfied that the system works. There are distinct sticking points, however, many of them a direct result of the Digital Age. Domain names, search engine keywords, peer-to-peer software and video-sharing Web sites create serious vulnerabilities for copyright and trademark holders. The sheer volume of digitalbased inventions puts the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO ) behind the eight ball as applications pile up--the iPhone alone generated some 200 patent applications in an office where more than a million others were pending at the end of fiscal 2006.
On the following pages, our readers reveal the system's pressure points and where they stand on the issues. All data is from The IP Survey, unless otherwise noted.Read the full story...