Current, future U.S. budgets raise worries in
Budget agreements and proposals in Washington offer little cheer to
nondefense R&D organizations that depend on federal funds. The fiscal 1996
budget reduces grants that the National Science Foundation can give for labs and
other research buildings by $150 million from a year ago. Also, the budget of
the Environmental Protection Agency is $700 million smaller than last year.
Funds for the advanced-technology program, which supports firms doing high-tech
research, shrank to $221 million. That was, however, a small triumph for the
program, which Republican leaders had hoped to scrub. Prospects for coming
fiscal years do not brighten. So says a report by the American Association for
the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Analysts there studied the seven-year
balanced budget plan of the Clinton Administration. They concluded that federal
funding of civilian R&D would start to plunge after 1997. By 2002, the
decline would be at least 11.7% from $34 billion in 1995. Hit especially hard
would be R&D funding for aeronautics, human space flight, fossil energy, and
Biotechnology pioneers win $500,000 inventor prize
The $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for American invention went this year to two men whose patents on gene cloning helped launch the biotechnology industry. They are Stanley Cohen of Stanford University and Herbert W. Boyer of the University of California at San Francisco. Also honored in a ceremony at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, was Wilson Greatbatch of Clarence, NY. Inventor of the implantable pacemaker and 149 other patents, Greatbatch received a Lifetime Achievement Award. A $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize went to David Levy, a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His inventions include a keyboard smaller than a credit card and Peel-ables®, packages of layered labels now sold by 3M.
High Court lifts judges' role in infringement lawsuits
Judges, not juries, should determine the scope of a patent in infringement cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled. In a unanimous decision, the high court reasoned that the expertise of judges is usually better than that of jurors in defining patent terminology. Also, the court decision says, judges are more likely to promote consistency in patent law. Juries retain authority to decide whether a defendant actually infringed a patent. However, many such cases stand or fall over the technical issue of how far a patent reaches. Some lawyers say the Supreme Court's decision is a setback for inventors who prefer to argue patent subtleties before lay jurors rather than trial judges. The winner in this case was Westview Instruments Inc. of Houston. Inventor Herbert Markman of Norristown, PA, had claimed that Westview infringed his patent on a device for tracking dry-cleaning inventories. A jury agreed with him, but a judge rejected its decision based on definitions of words.
Return to old patent system? Many groups split on issue
Opinions vary widely over what America's patent system should be. The issue sparks divisions within the Administration, among members of both parties on Capitol Hill, and at chambers of commerce meetings. That was evident at hearings held by a House Science subcommittee considering three bills for changing patent protection. One bill, H.R. 359, would take the nation back to the system in force before June 8, 1995, with some im-provements. Under that method, a U.S. patent lasted for 17 years after it was granted. Under the new system, a patent, if granted, lasts 20 years from the date the inventor applied for it. Both of the other two bills would keep the new 20-year approach. H.R. 1732 would provide for automatic publication of a patent application 18 months after its earliest effective filing date. H.R. 1733 would enable a patent owner to receive an extension should administrative problems delay issuance of a patent. Bruce A. Lehman, commissioner of patents and trademarks, testified in favor of H.R. 1733 and H.R. 1732. However, Terry E. Bibbens of the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration supports H.R. 359, the 17-year ap-proach. Most large businesses back the 20-year changes. They claim that the old system enabled applicants to stall the granting of patents, thus extending protection periods.
Win95 version of Drafix CAD features new drawing tools
Softdesk Retail Products of Kansas City, MO, has added a throng of new drawing tools to Drafix CAD Professional for Windows 95, version 4.0. Demonstrated in Arlington, VA, the program is a 32-bit CAD application that supports all Windows 95 features. These include a mail interface for sending designs across a network. You also can import raster images into your drawing. A symbol bar lets you view, select, and place symbols without switching screens. The program ships on a CD-ROM and includes more than 5,000 symbols and sample macros and hundreds of sample drawings.