Five years ago this summer, Congress embarked on efforts to reform the nation's patent system. Members of the House and Senate introduced legislation focused on bringing patents into the global economy of the 21st century. After half a decade of debate and the recent emergence and growth of a middle ground on the issue in Congress, there's cause for optimism that the time for real progress finally has arrived.
Patent reform reflects a historical fact of life: The nation needs to update the patent system periodically to address technological change. The need for legal evolution is especially pronounced when new technologies reshape the economic and cultural landscapes. We've witnessed this phenomenon intermittently since the 1800s, when rapid industrialization led to patent controversies that erupted on the front pages of the nation's newspapers.