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Patently Mad About Patents

Credit: iStockphoto

Credit: iStockphoto

By Ian Maxwell

Recent changes in the US patent system have been promoted as a boon to the US economy, but are the benefits of these changes universal?

Ian Maxwell is a venture capitalist and Adjunct Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering at RMIT who started out his career as a physical polymer chemist. This article was first published in Chemistry in Australia.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

In most countries, liquid volume is measured in metric litres. In Australia, we once had fluid ounces but we wisely switched from the imperial to the metric system in the 1970s. Our American cousins eschewed such change and they still have fluid ounces, but different fluid ounces from the English imperial system that we abandoned. Back in their distant history the Americans decided to come up with their own measure of fluid volume, but didn’t bother to change the name from that used in the rest of the non-metric world.

For those of you who visit the US regularly this will come as no surprise. The US was, for a long time, a very large and quite isolated economy that was not in the habit of concerning itself with what went on in the rest of the world. Last century, after being reluctantly dragged into a couple of world wars, the US started getting very involved in the affairs of the rest of the world. The primary driver for this change of policy was not public opinion, but economics. US business started focusing on growth opportunities outside of the US, and the US government took on the role of clearing the path for US business abroad.

Despite this more recent increased economic and political engagement with the rest of the world, the US has hung onto many of its old habits, such as US fluid ounces. It also has a unique patent system developed back when the US...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.