Read my lips: The American Patent System (TAPS) is dead.
Not “dead man’s bluff” dead. I mean “deader than a doornail” dead. Tomorrow morning, play taps for TAPS. And tomorrow afternoon, cut a deal for a one-time right to use that cute “He’s dead, Jim” browser-crash screen. Do be sure to tinker with it, though, to say “He’s dead, Tom.” In deference to Jefferson. Now there was a guy who “got” patents. As facilely as he got democracy. Unlike a few thought leaders of the early twenty-first century.
No matter. We didn’t need TAPS anyway. I guess. Not any more than we needed hard-nosed banking system regulation (whose silly idea was that?) or net neutrality (what nonsense) or social security (yes, social security).
I know. You think I’m Chicken-Little-ing this thing. But I’m not. If you doubt me, you haven’t pored over the recent (what seem like) “we’re not sure we can explain why, but we’re sure patents are the devil in disguise” court opinions. Or the congress-sponsored “six ways to shoot patents in a barrel” patent reform legislation.
Brace yourself. There’s not much left to be done now before the lights are shot out and the gates locked. And ask yourself some questions. Will this spell the end of patents coming out of the patent office? It’s a good stream now, but will it soon be a trickle, and before long nothing? Will trouncing the patents that sneak out before the gates are shut require only a few hundred more of those “I can kill your patent faster than you can say America Invents Act” battles in the patent office? Will peace then reign forever? Will hope dwindle of successful court enforcement of any patent that—by an odd miracle—survives the wars? And if the new regime gives signs of going AWOL, will more patent smashing legislation be on its way?
Who killed TAPS? Was it the kind of folk who might have missed seeing a socially useful economic incentive even if they had run it over on El Camino? Did they think of patents as nothing more than trivial road kill? Not worth a second glance in the rear view mirror?
TAPS never had a chance.
Why did we let this happen? Were we—the rag tag supporters of TAPS—too often looking the other way? Or too poor to protest? Or as fearful as young Alice when confronted by the Queen in Alice in Wonderland:
“… the Queen was in a furious passion, and went stamping about, and shouting `Off with his head!’ or `Off with her head!’ about once in a minute. Alice began to feel very uneasy: to be sure, she had not as yet had any dispute with the Queen, but she knew that it might happen any minute, `and then,’ thought she, `what would become of me? They’re dreadfully fond of beheading people here; the great wonder is, that there’s any one left alive!’”
Scary, of course. Too bad that we forgot how confidence and straight talk could have saved the day:
“The Queen turned crimson with fury, and, after glaring at [Alice] for a moment like a wild beast, screamed `Off with her head! Off–’ `Nonsense!’ said Alice, very loudly and decidedly, and the Queen was silent.”
Maybe next time.
Just my two cents.
As a lawyer, I am annoyed by growing older.
At my stage in life, old age looms in bold relief, like a posthumous sculpture of some long forgotten lawyer. Thankfully, I’m not so close yet that my face is cheek by jowl with his stone one. But I’m close enough to catch a glimpse of the timeless stare in his eyes. Closer than I want to be just now.
When did this troublesome mess hit me?
The other morning. I was standing on the Green Line trolley when the 20-year-old woman sitting in front of me looked up, stared deeply into my eyes, smiled broadly, and asked “Would you like to sit here?”
And she wasn’t pointing to her lap.
She was offering to stand up and cede her seat to someone she thought needed it. At first I didn’t realize that. But when I turned to look behind me to identify the target of her offer, I found no one there. I puzzled over this episode for days, but never figured out how she spotted one of my kind so easily.
If your right index finger is twitching above the “next page” key about now, you must be in an earlier phase of life, the one when you can bury yourself in some important legal issue without a care in the world. Maybe it’s the third footnote of the fourteenth page of the draft appeal brief that is due at 11:59. Does that comma belong there?
For the moment, you can immerse yourself in your work, oblivious to the pesky growing-old proposition. And why not? You are (metaphorically) at the right age to hustle along the uphill leg of the trail with a 30-pound pack on your back, a GPS in your left hand, and three kids hurrying to keep up.
You miss the future that I am now starting to see coming up over the rise. The impending period of stumbling over the rocks and roots on the downhill segment with a walking stick in the left hand, a pacemaker in the belly, and one eye out for a good place to stop for a rest. It will be the time when getting my eyes to actually see the comma in that third footnote will be the challenge; forget about questioning its presence.
Happily, I’m not there yet. For now, I’m in between. Not yet stale like an old bruised banana or an “expired” box of “Pop Tarts”. I’m still grasping the complex issues easily. And putting my ideas into the written word with skill. Interrupted only when my outdated bladder prods me to trundle down to the men’s room more times every day than I care to count.
At this juncture, I can continue to relish the riches that a big law firm’s colleagues, clients, and challenges offer. And it’s a good thing, because I can’t take them with me.
Hmmm. Maybe I just won’t go.