Mark Stadnyk is fighting a law that would overturn one of the
nation's oldest patent principles by awarding patents to the
inventors who are "first to file" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark
In Silicon Valley, Apple has just won big against Samsung in the
patent lawsuit of the year, after trading claims and counterclaims
of product ideas pilfered. Across the country, in a court in
Florida, an inventor named Mark Stadnyk is waging a different kind
of patent warfare -- an ambitious legal foray.
Mr. Stadnyk is suing the U.S. government, aiming to head off a
patent law that he says would favor big companies and hurt lone
inventors like himself.
Represented by a prominent Washington lawyer, Mr. Stadnyk filed a
suit last month that challenges the constitutionality of legislation
that Congress passed last autumn, the America Invents Act. Mr.
Stadnyk and his lawyer -- along with some academics, entrepreneurs
and venture capitalists -- assert that the legislation is a triumph
of corporate lobbying power over the founders' wishes, and that it
threatens the United States' stature as the world's leading
The law would overturn one of the nation's oldest patent
principles by awarding patents to the inventors who are "first to
file" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The present system,
called "first to invent," relies on lab notebooks, e-mails and early
prototypes to establish the date of invention.
Mr. Stadnyk, 48, stumbled into the world of invention and patents
after he bought a powerful new motorcycle and wanted to avoid the
battering he received from the wind when riding at 60 miles an hour,
or about 95 kilometers an hour, even with a windshield. He devised a
system of brackets and gears to adjust the height and angle of the
windshield and the gap between it and the motorcycle. With his
system, he says, the rider feels a flutter of breeze instead of
jolting winds and turbulence.
Mr. Stadnyk, who describes his invention style as "rough hacking
with chunks of metal," founded his company, MadStad Engineering, in
2006, and as sales picked up, he stopped working as a computer
consultant to devote himself to the business.
Today, MadStad employs eight people, including Mr. Stadnyk and
his wife, Patty. His adjustable windshield systems, priced from $100
to $320, are now used on dozens of makes and models of motorcycles,
and are sold through dealers in Australia, Britain and Spain, as
well as the United States. Yearly sales, he said, are more than
$500,000 and growing briskly.
Mr. Stadnyk holds three patents, and he speaks of a patented idea
as a uniquely human property right. "It came out of your mind," he
explained. "It's not property you bought or inherited."
Mr. Stadnyk became interested in the patent legislation as it
proceeded. He says he studied the proposals and the law, read blogs
and contacted Washington lawyers and academics who raised the issue
of its constitutionality. A grassroots activist, he even made a
couple of YouTube videos.
The shift to a first-to-file system, scheduled to take effect
next March, is intended to simplify and streamline the current
system, which can invite protracted litigation between competing
inventors. The switch would also put the United States in harmony
with patent offices in Europe, Japan and elsewhere, allowing them to
share information and potentially ease the strain on overburdened
patent examiners worldwide.
The efficiency argument is the mainstream view of corporate
America and Washington policy makers. President Barack Obama
declared that the new law would cut "the red tape that stops too
many inventors and entrepreneurs from quickly turning new ideas into
thriving businesses -- which holds our whole economy back."
But opponents say it will give big companies a huge advantage
over start-ups and small inventors. Large corporations have deep
pockets and lawyers to write up and file patents, they say, and the
new law will touch off a paper chase to the patent office instead of
a race to innovate. …