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Why Patents are for 17-20 years

In today's world of exponential growth and change, 20 years seems like a long time. Back in the days of apprentices and Master Tradesmen it might have been appropriate. We need to re-think everything as we transition from Analog to Digital.
Patents should protect the inventor (not the company that owns the patent) and allow that person to be able to invent and develop new ideas. I don't think it was intended to be a method for limiting innovation or access to new ideas.
Maybe we need a 20 year moratorium on patents to let things settle down..
Also, our U.S. patents don't mean the same thing to other countries so as our world becomes smaller, flatter, hotter and more global does a U.S. patent carry the same meaning?

Source: http://www.owdlaw.com/patent-faq.html

How long does a patent last?

Patents last 20 years from the date of filing of the first patent application that includes the claimed invention. Patent lifespans used to be 17 years from the date of issuance, but that term was changed by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) agreement in 1995. Older applications are subject to a grandfather clause that gives them the later of two possible expiration dates.

How did they come up with 17 years?

Back in the days of yore, people apprenticed themselves to master tradesmen to learn a trade. The apprenticeship lasted for seven years. Out of custom and courtesy, the apprentice would not practice any special little tricks or techniques, those secrets that his master had taught him that weren’t generally known in the trade (i.e. inventions), for a period of two apprenticeships, or fourteen years, after the apprenticeship ended. The abstinence period assumed that the master had developed his inventions smack dab in the middle of the seven year apprenticeship, or three-and-a-half-years before it ended. The total length of time that an ex-apprentice would refrain from using his master’s inventions was therefore (3 ? + 7 + 7) years, or 17 ? years. Rounding down gave a 17 year monopoly for the inventor.



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