Tigard-based Agilyx also relies on patents, receiving five so far on technology that converts plastics back into crude oil. Chief technology officer Kevin DeWhitt is also watching AIA changes with interest. He attends a Portland inventor’s group and is wary of the first-to-file rule, but of the third-party input process, he says, “To the extent that it’s more of a real-time feedback as opposed to a surprise later after your patent’s issued, that’s not a bad thing.” Bial likewise is “all for it,” but both think the process could be abused by well-paid lawyers with time on their hands.
DeWhitt is encouraged by patent office progress. His first patent took four years, but he got the next four in less than two years and was pleased with his patent examiner, as well as backlog reduction. He credits the USPTO’s Track One option, which expedites applications for a fee, which he used for two patents.
Reforms and legal questions aside, DeWhitt says filing a patent is an important clarifying process. He tells budding inventors, “The best thing they could possibly do is go all the way through and at least write up a provisional patent application … because you really understand what you’re inventing. And a lot of times, if you don’t do that, you’re missing key things in the process.”
Blanketbooster’s Tipperreiter adds that a patent is much more than legal traction. “Beyond just litigation or defensible product … it gives a company like mine leverage in the marketplace,” he says, “and more tangible benefit to another company if they were to buy you out. If you’ve got patent protection or trademarks, those are tangible assets.”