Gary Michelson, renown for his innovations in spine implants, surgical tools and techniques, sent the following letter to members of Congress in support of current patent reform legislation. Dr. Michelson became a billionaire as a result of a settlement of his infringement lawsuit against Medtronic. I believe his argument carries far more weight than those of some critics out there bashing their heads and the current director of the USPTO over S 515. I’m posting his letter in its entirety.
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I am writing in regard to the patent reform legislation currently before you.
Abraham Lincoln had it right when he said the patent system was the engine of the American economy. Those few words inscribed by our founding fathers in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution of the United States says it beautifully “to promote the Progress of Science and the useful Arts.”
All politics aside, one would be hard pressed to find support in our history that government can either tax its way out of a recession, or tax its way out of a budget deficit without crushing job formation -the most pressing economic problem of our time. History has shown that it is possible to have vibrant job growth and to simultaneously reverse deficit spending by growing the economy. You cannot increase productivity by simply telling the man with a shovel to dig twice as hard. But one person with a word processor can replace twenty people with typewriters. That is more work done for the same amount of effort, raises productivity and the standard of living, and makes businesses more profitable so they can employ more people. It may well be that in the 1990s, it was the permeation of computers throughout the business world that substantially contributed to the economic growth of those times.
I would submit to you that the next engine to produce that kind of economic growth is currently trapped in the patent office. The United States now competes economically against the rest of the world. We cannot afford to have technology, that if unleashed and nourished would fuel our economy, labor slowly through the patent office while the rest of the world races on.
Companies will not invest in uncertainty. The power of the patent gives small entrepreneurs and large companies alike the certainty that they require to invest their time and money. This creates jobs and frequently a better way of achieving the same result or a better result. Sometimes the better way is the thing itself.
The United States patent system is in desperate need of the reform legislation presently before you.
Some people have grabbed the pulpit and have claimed to speak for the individual inventor. But, grabbing that mantle for themselves and making such proclamations doesn’t make it so.
I have been an independent inventor for the last quarter century. I am the single named inventor on over 900 issued patents or pending applications throughout the world, and just shy of 250 issued patents in the United States alone. Many of the inventions contained in these patents have resulted in highly successful best of kind or entirely new products. One of my licensees estimated that their sales of products incorporating my technologies would exceed five billion dollars ($5,000,000,000.00) and affect the lives of millions of people. Imagine the number of jobs that must be created to design, manufacture, sell and service these previously non existent products.
I mentioned people’s lives effected. Let me be more precise. I am a board certified orthopedic surgeon fellowship trained in and specializing in spinal surgery. Recently the Paralyzed Veterans of America recognized me as the outstanding medical researcher in the field of spinal disorders. My inventions which are in the field of spinal disorders have made such procedures faster, safer, more effective and less expensive. On occasion they have freed people from wheelchairs, lifted them from disability, allowed them to return to being mothers and fathers and husbands and wives, and to go from welfare to work.
Presently we are blessed with a new Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (U.S.P.T.O.) who left a job that was the envy of the intellectual property world. He brought with him a unique understanding of ultra large scale information technologies and computers that is so essential to the present and future functioning of the Office, as well as an in depth working knowledge of best practices from the competitive world of free enterprise. This is what will be required to reinvigorate the Patent Office, and to clear up the massive three year backlog of 800,000 pending patent applications. However, the able and dedicated people who staff the patent office cannot effectively execute the people’s business with their hands tied behind them and lacking the resources to do so.
I strongly implore you on behalf of myself, independent inventors like me, and for the good of our country to support the patent reform legislation before you. And if upon reflection you recognize how truly vital the Patent Office is to the future of our country then I would ask you to do more and to consider the issue of “revenue diversion”.
The U.S.P.T.O. is unique in American government in that it costs the taxpayer nothing while providing the best dollar for dollar value in the intellectual property industry. The U.S.P.T.O. should have the authority to set its fees so that they are appropriate to the services provided and “in the aggregate” sufficient to fully optimize the functioning of that office, and to reasonably budget for the capital expenditures that will be required in the future for it to continue to do so.
There is an old saying that the best time to plant a shade tree was fifty years ago. The next best time is right now. Now is the time to act.
Thank you for your consideration of this vital issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of service to you in this matter.
Gary K. Michelson, M.D.