Daily Camera Opinion: Don’t upend patent system, by Mike Bradbury
This post originally appeared in the Daily Camera on May 3, 2014.
When I started JackFinn LLC — a small business based in Eagle, Colorado specializing in product development — I was excited about the prospect of bringing my inventions to consumers across the Centennial State. I knew that I had developed ground-breaking products that would fill a need for a wide range of Coloradans, which is extremely fulfilling, but I also had the confidence of knowing that my inventions were protected and that I was well-positioned to reap the rewards of successful innovation.
The reason for my confidence was simple: America’s strong patent system. Our country’s patent system is regarded as the best in the world and provides innovators like me with critical protections that help deliver life-enriching inventions to the market. However, patent legislation currently being considered by Congress would significantly weaken the current system and leave Colorado’s innovators and its innovation economy in a perilous state. It’s critical that lawmakers carefully consider the implications of these sweeping changes before drastically altering our country’s proven patent system.
Colorado is a state that relies heavily upon innovation. Over the past few years our state has experienced a “tech boom” as many companies in industries that depend on strong patents are choosing to call Colorado home. Thanks to the University of Colorado and a solid presence of companies representing the technological, biotech and communications industries, Boulder is among the most innovative areas in the country. In fact, a recent study from the Brookings Institution found that Boulder was one of the top five metro areas in the country for number of patents applied for per capita from 2007-2011. The same study also found that Denver ranked 29th in the country for average number of patents issued during the same period, with Boulder coming in at 33rd and Fort Collins at 64th.
In the case of Boulder, its position as a national leader in patent development can be traced back to its high population of workers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. The healthy collaboration that exists between academia and companies in the private sector in training new inventors and developing new technologies is invaluable and leads to job creation and economic growth across Colorado.
Colorado’s emergence as a hotbed of innovation is what makes this pending legislation all the more troubling. If this bill is passed, our state’s innovation economy and those driving it could suffer significant harm in the form of slowed economic growth, diminished wages and lost jobs. And innovators — especially independent inventors like me — will find it harder to defend their patents and remain competitive. The overly broad provisions found in these legislative proposals stand to stifle innovation, not nurture it as the current system does so effectively. Many innovators may feel as if the risk associated with developing their idea or invention may not be worth the reward if they are faced with the daunting reality of a costly legal battle against larger companies with infinitely more resources.
I am hopeful that lawmakers will give this legislation the careful thought and deliberation it deserves. There is far too much at stake both in Colorado and across the country to usher in sweeping changes to a patent system upon which so many innovators rely. We haven’t even allowed the changes from the Patent Reform Act of 2011 to fully take hold, yet many are rushing to upend the system once again.
The legislation that the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider in the coming weeks will hurt inventors and our innovation economy. I urge Senators Udall and Bennet to help ensure the legislation protects legitimate patent owners, encourages invention and doesn’t have unintended consequences for Colorado’s growing innovation economy.