Should there be a time limit for a patent?

According to United States Patent and Trademark Office’s website, a term of a patent has been changed by Congress a number of times since 1790:

  • Initially, under the 1790 Patent Act the term could not exceed 14 years.
  • In 1836, Congress passed the Patent Act (5. Stat 117, 119, 5) which amended the statute to provide a term that could last for 21 years by providing for a 7 year extension from and after the expiration of the first term.
  • In 1861, Congress again changed the term to 17 years with no extension.
  • In 1994 the United States signed the Uruguay Round Agreements Act changed the date from which the term was measured. Because the term was measured from the filing date of the application and not the grant date of the patent, Congress amended 35 U.S.C. § 154 to provide for applications filed after June 7, 1995 that the term of a patent begins on the date that the patent issues and ends on the date that is twenty years from the date on which the application was filed in the U.S. or, if, the application contained a specific reference to an earlier filed application or applications under 35 U.S.C. §§ 120, 121 or 365(c), twenty years from the filing date of the earliest of such application. In addition, 35 U.S.C. § 154 was amended to provide term extension if the original patent was delayed due to secrecy orders, interferences, or appellate review periods.
  • In 1999, Congress amended 35 U.S.C. § 154 to provide for additional patent term if the USPTO failed to meet certain statutory deadlines that guarantee prompt patent and trademark office responses and guarantee no more than a 3 year application pendency. Applications filed after May 28, 2000 became subject to the changes to 35 U.S.C. § 154(b).
  • On December 18, 2012, the Patent Law Treaties Implementation Act of 2012 (PLTIA) was signed into law. The PLTIA among other things set forth provisions implementing the 1999 Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs (“Hague Agreement”). These provisions (Title I of the PLTIA) take effect on May 13, 2015.  Per this agreement, U.S. design patents resulting from applications filed on or after May 13, 2015 will have a 15 year term from issuance.  Design applications filed before May 13, 2015 will continue to have a 14 year term from issuance.


My question is: should there be a patent term at all? 

Please feel free to post your thoughts and feedback along with any reasoning for your thoughts here.

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The very heart of your writing whilst sounding reasonable in the beginning, did not really sit very well with me personally after some time. Someplace within the paragraphs you actually managed to make me a believer unfortunately only for a short while. I nevertheless have a problem with your leaps in logic and you might do well to fill in those gaps. In the event you can accomplish that, I will certainly end up being fascinated.

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