Sunscreen … and Patent Law?

That Got Your Attention, Right?

The other day, in my inbox, were juxtaposed two random emails. And I had to pause because their subjects alone reflected much of my frustration these days.

The first was from Marc Karlinsky, editor of Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. It read, “New bill sheds light on sunscreen issue,” and the lede read, “Like other states, Illinois’ school regulators generally require a doctor’s note before students can use sunscreen … .”

Because it’s a drug, for heaven’s sakes.

That was email number one. Number two? From Richard Lloyd at Intellectual Asset Magazine. He asked, “Is the U.S. still the driving force of the global patent market?”

So, in one glance, a focus on sunscreen legislation in schools  and the ongoing erosion of patent values domestically. Given equal treatment! The simple juxtaposition drove it home.

What are our priorities? A stable environment for innovators? Or government micro-management? You can guess where I stand: Outlaw sunscreen!

But, seriously, what can we do when our institutions move so slowly, and when special interests skew our patent laws? How can we effect change in spite of the legislative and judicial roadblocks?

We should do what we were trained to do: that is, find a work around.  A lot can be done to overcome these hurdles if we return to treating protection of innovation strategically, rather than commoditizing patents. We need to educate companies and inventors on drafting better patents—but fewer of them. We need to focus on the innovation pipeline. We need to encourage innovative companies to be selective about what to patent, and work for that protection, rather than abandoning the idea of patenting all together.

Those two emails spurred me to write this piece, now live at I’ll be revisiting this theme in succeeding posts—both there and here on my blog. Stay tuned.



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