Patent News

Feb. 10, 2015

CQ Roll Call: On Patent Litigation Reform, Proceed with Caution, by Bill Merritt

This post originally appeared in CQ Roll Call on February 10, 2015.

Lost in the current debate in Congress about the need for “patent reform” – which is really about “patent litigation reform” – is the role of the scientist or engineer whose work on the frontiers of science and technology holds great promise for the future.

Research and development (R&D), whether it takes place at a government laboratory, a university-funded laboratory, or the laboratory of a private company, can lead to incremental discoveries or massively disruptive ones. No one can truly claim to know in advance whether the benefits will be large or small. Here’s what we do know: R&D is the most important driver of American progress, competitiveness and value creation, and America’s patent system is the foundation of that value, both in principle and in practice.

In practice, it’s quite simple. In technology R&D, there’s an enormous time gap between fundamental discoveries and their market applications. In wireless technology, that time gap is at least five to seven years, a lifetime in the technology market. The patent system provides the only guarantee that R&D today can be turned into value tomorrow – and without that guarantee, R&D expenses cannot be justified to shareholders.