According to Dave Simon, The First-to-File Provisions of the Patent Reform Act of 2005 Violate the Constitution’s Intellectual Property Clause.
The Patent Reform Act of 2005 proposes provisions that would change the granting of patents from the so-called first-to-invent system to a first-to-file system. The Intellectual Property Clause limits Congress to granting patents only to “Inventors”. A system enacted by Congress for granting patents to anyone other than a good faith inventor operates outside of the constraints enumerated in the Clause, and therefore is facially impermissible. The first-to-file provisions of the Act are violative of Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution.
Dave’s paper is premised on the assertion that an invention is only made once, and later independent inventions should not actually be considered inventions. Dave is not the first to make this argument — his paper, however, is easily accessible online. Download Dave’s paper. Ed Suominen, patent attorney in Scotsdale made the same argument back in 2001 in a paper published by the JPTOS. Download Ed’s Paper.
Of course, it is highly unlikely that any court would agree that a first-to-file system is unconstitutional. Ed agrees — “Eldred proved that Congress can pretty much do whatever it wants about IP as far as this Supreme Court is concerned.” Professor Mark Lemley gave his remarks in an e-mail:
I have to disagree with the claim that first-inventor-to-file is unconstitutional. Dave Simon’s reasoning is based on the idea that “inventor” means whoever thought of it first, not simply a person who thinks of it independently. But if that were true, (1) current US patent law would be unconstitutional in the circumstances in which it discounts invention in non-WTO member countries, and the system would have been unconstitutional throughout its history when it was limited to inventive activity in the US; and (2) copyright law would be unconstitutional because it treats any independent creator as an author. Both results seem unlikely to me.
If you are against a switch to first-to-file, I would not hang my hat on the constitutionality argument.