“From the time my patent was granted to the time it expires, a company that stole my invention from my hands will have generated over $1 trillion dollars using it. When faced with a patent infringement lawsuit, they weaponized the America Invents Act, which they lobbied into law, and the PTAB validated their theft.”
In a dream, I saw three rotating gears whose teeth were not matching up, and then saw my own hands reorder them so they fit perfectly. That’s when I bolted awake and said the name of my invention out loud.
I solved a problem few in my industry were noticing with a solution that contradicted and insulted conventional wisdom. I never went back to bed.
I got to work early and waited for people to arrive. When they did, I started to share how “it” would work. Some thought it was brilliant, some could care less, most didn’t get it, and one suggested I file for a patent.
I spent hours on sunny weekends inside the San Francisco public library helping to write a patent specification. For years after filing the patent, I examined every piece of prior art presented in every rejection the examiner put forth and worked with my attorney to craft our responses. I paid every filing fee and the legal bills with numbers hard to digest.
In August of 2006, six years after my flash of genius struck, I earned a patent. I would later learn my examiner granted less than 11% of applications he reviews.
A Painful Discovery
At around this time, I started reading about a new ad serving system launched by an Internet company with a funny name. A component to their new system was being described by journalists as a “breathtaking innovation,” “a novel mechanism that emerged from the wild,” and “the least understood, most controversial and ultimately the most powerful component” to their new system. I was stunned.
Some of my co-workers had joined this new company and brought my invention with them. I felt terrible for them. They were going to get in trouble, I thought, for stealing what was now a patented invention. As I did more research, however, I was surprised to learn the name of someone I did not work with was publicly credited for this “breathtaking innovation.”
Then, a New York Times article came out in October 2006 with a picture of the 20-something wunderkind who apparently “experienced an epiphany…an idea that would be worth billions and billions of dollars.” Standing next to him was my former boss who thought my invention was “brilliant.”
From the time my patent was granted to the time it expires, a company that stole my invention from my hands will have generated over $1 trillion dollars using it. When faced with a patent infringement lawsuit, they weaponized the America Invents Act (AIA), which they lobbied into law, and the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) validated their theft.
Having an invention taken from you twice—first by one of the largest companies in the world and then again by your own government—is something only inventors who have been through this PTAB experience can identify with. It’s like sudden death combined with a slow and painful one relived every day.
I am no longer present. I have trouble looking my son in his eyes and he’s four and has beautiful eyes. I feel like I let him down and his life will forever bear my scars. I can’t see any future because I am so desperate to change this past. I catch myself talking to myself.
The unfairness of the AIA keeps me up at night. It is so patently absurd it is impossible to explain to people without a metaphor. It’s like a losing a college degree after questions on all your tests previously passed, are changed ten years after graduation. Surprisingly, your answers are no longer correct.
It’s like moving the fence back after a home run is hit. So now it would be obvious the ball would have been caught ten years after the batter rounded the bases.
The Real Definition of a “Bad Patent”
The PTAB ruled my patent lacked an inventive concept for a claimed invention those in the art referred to as a “breathtaking innovation.” When I got the chance to meet with USPTO Director Andrei Iancu and his team to discuss my case, I asked how they square a ruling like this and they had nothing to say.
The gas lit narrative of ridding the world of bad patents keeps me up at night. If a granted patent is infringed, then common sense validates the claimed invention is likely innovative and non-obvious because obvious, non-innovative ideas are not copied.
A bad patent in the eyes of the AIA is a patent that threatens a big company. Just say it.
A Problem of Representation
Knowing I could have won keeps me up the longest. Like most inventors, I could only afford contingency representation.
I loved my lawyers. They were smart, but they spread their hours across multiple cases from all different industries. They could never spend enough time with me to learn the industry in which my invention lived. So, we were never as prepared as the $1,200 an hour lawyers we were up against who work on “this case” and always within the same industry.
There was a moment during our oral arguments at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit when Judge Taranto mischaracterized my invention. My attorney could not respond with the insights I could have shared easily to help the judge make a more informed decision. In an exercise where the goal is to “get it right” the inventor is not allowed to talk.
All That’s Left
I always thought a patent was granted to protect the inventor, not violate them. The AIA helped one of the biggest companies in the world get away with stealing, leaving me for dead. Worse, they conspired to cover up their theft by handing someone else my flash of genius.
That’s my story, and it’s all that I am left with.
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