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News Link • Inventions

The Patent Problem

• http://www.wired.com, By Steven Levy
 One afternoon in the early 1980s, Mitchell Medina and Robert Lech were hanging out in the dining room of Medina’s Essex Fells, New Jersey, home. The two friends got together about once a week. This time the conversation turned to the topic of invention. Lech, a chiropractor, was in the process of computerizing his office. That required converting his claim forms and doctors’ reports into an electronic format, an ordeal that involved painstakingly typing in all of the information by hand. It gave Lech an idea: What if you could scan all those documents digitally and store them on the computer? Lech had been chewing on the concept for a while. Now he was eager to share his thoughts with his friend Medina, in part because Medina knew a lot about patents.
 

The US patent system goes back to the nation’s founding; it is explicitly delineated in the Constitution, which, in the name of “the progress of science and the useful arts,” gives Congress the power to grant inventors “the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries” for a limited time—generally 20 years—during which period competitors are forbidden from selling similar products.

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