Patent News

Feb. 5, 2015

The Courier-Journal Op-Ed: Congress should protect patent system, not weaken it, by Rep. Thomas Massie

This post originally appeared in The Courier-Journal on February 5, 2015.

At the recent Northern Kentucky Regional First LEGO League Robotics tournament, I marveled at the imagination and creativity displayed by so many young people. In these students, I see the spirit of ingenuity and a culture of invention that have been critical to our nation’s economic success for over 2 centuries. I was reminded of the competitions I participated in as a young inventor, and of the American spirit of innovation that inspired me to obtain 29 patents.

I often think about these young inventors when we debate so-called “patent reform” in Congress. For example, about a year ago, the House of Representatives passed a bill called the Innovation Act. As a patent holder, I was deeply concerned about the consequences of this bill, which was rushed to the House floor without adequate debate. Fortunately, the bill did not pass the Senate.

In my opinion, the Innovation Act threatens American inventors, particularly individual inventors and those working at small businesses and startups. The bill attempts to “fix” a few isolated abuses of the patent system, but instead it sets forth a comprehensive overhaul of the existing legal framework that compromises the rights of all legitimate inventors.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the Innovation Act is the provision that makes it easier for corporations to keep shipping products even if a court finds reason to believe those products contain stolen inventions. When deciding whether to pay a fair license fee to the rightful inventors, or whether to steal a patented idea and risk a lawsuit, it is the threat of lost revenue that keeps the big companies honest.