When inventions demand secrecy

The Opinion page article "Keep `First to File' Patent Rule Pending," June 7, makes a strong case against a "first to file" patent system for our country.

However, many competitive businesses need a mix of patent protection and secrecy. Often the only way to protect innovations against imitative competitors is to keep them secret.

Under the present system, a choice must always be made to either file a patent application on an innovation or try to keep it secret. The "prior-user rights" provision in the proposed "first to file" system can minimize the risk that someone will independently invent and patent an innovation that another company had already invented and invested in but chose to maintain as a secret.

Under the patent system's arcane rules, the "first to invent" by law may not be the true first inventor. This is the real problem that should be addressed by any reform. Alex R. Sluzas, Elkins Park, Pa.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please fax letters to (617) 450-2317 or address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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