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J. Nevin Shaffer, JR. J. Nevin Shaffer, JR.
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Thoughts for Small Businesses and Inventors: When the Politicians Call, Just Say No to Harmonization!

By Nevin Shaffer, Patent Attorney

I love election years! Every four years the folks running for office remember that the people in this country with ideas and inventions, the ones that start all those small businesses, are the backbone of our economy. This year when Obama and McCain call, ask them a question first. Ask them if they favor small business. You know what they will say. Then tell them this: If you support small business, say no to harmonization of the US patent laws! They will be stunned, put off guard and you can hang up without having to make a contribution! How great is that?!

Here is what I am talking about. I believe the United States has the most inventive group of people in the planet because our laws favor the little guy! In the US, the playing field is even no matter how much money the other guy has. Here the first to invent wins as between two people with the same idea. In every other country in the world it is a race to the patent office, the first to file wins. Because patent applications aren’t free, this “first to file system” favors the guys with the money. You know who they are: IBM, HP, etc. It doesn’t matter to them. They have all the money! So, in the US, there is no race, first to invent wins and the playing filed is even between the small business and the big.

Also, every other country in the world says if you test the marketability of your new idea in the market place, it’s not patentable! In every other country you must first spend your college savings fund on a patent application before you bring the product out. In the US, you have one year to test the commercial viability of your new product in the market! If you have 35 million dollars in orders in the first month, heck, apply for two patents out of cash flow! On the other hand if after 11 months of aggressive advertising, you haven’t sold one, it may still be patentable, but who cares? It’s a certified commercial dog!

So our system is good for small business. The problem with the so called “harmonization” of patent laws the US politicians are talking about is that they mean to make our laws like the rest of the world. That is definitely not good for US small business! My thought is, if there is any harmonization to be done, let the rest of the world harmonize their systems to ours!

Nevin is a licensed patent attorney and Florida Bar Certified Intellectual Property Law Specialist and has been practicing Intellectual Property law for over 28 years. You may contact Nevin by phone at 850-934-4124 and/or email at Or visit his website at

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