Patent News

Apr. 9, 2015

Financial Times: Tech industry and universities clash over US patent law, by Aaron Stanley

This article originally appeared in Financial Times on April 9, 2015.

As Congress revives a proposed crackdown on patent “trolls” that collapsed last spring, a scuffle is breaking out between Silicon Valley firms pushing to curb frivolous patent litigation and top US universities that claim such reforms would limit their ability to license inventions and invest in research.

The Consumer Electronics Association — which represents more than 2,000 technology companies — sent a letter this week to the presidents of nearly 150 universities, including Yale, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Johns Hopkins. The CEA is urging the universities to drop their attempts to block the Innovation Act — a proposed law that would limit trolls’ ability to bring bogus infringement lawsuits and send harassing demand letters.

“It is disappointing to see universities reject commonsense reform, especially since many universities are licensing publicly-funded patents,” said Gary Shapiro, chief executive of the CEA.

But the universities, which led a broad coalition of industry groups to block similar proposals from passing the Senate last year, say that the tech industry’s proposals would do little to deter trollish behaviour and would make it more difficult and expensive for legitimate patent holders to defend their property.

“[The proposed legislation] would significantly increase the overall risks and costs of legitimate patent enforcement for universities, start-up companies, licensees of university research, and all other patent holders,” the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities said in a response letter to CEA dated April 8.