Patent News

Jul. 21, 2015

The Hill: Congress’ patent reform plan is an assault on workers, by Rep. Ron Klink (D-Pa.)

This post originally appeared in The Hill on July 21, 2015.

The “Help Wanted” signs are up all across America. After shedding several hundred thousand jobs in the 2000, manufacturing has expanded payrolls the past four years. Firms are looking to fill about 350,000 positions. That’s welcome news for 600,000 still-unemployed manufacturing laborers.

Congress might take the wind out of those economic sails if the public doesn’t watch them. Lawmakers are preparing to vote on the Innovation Act, which would gut the patent protections that enable innovators to create and manufacture new products. Without strong patents, companies will scale back research and development projects and lay off thousands of workers. To protect American laborers, legislators must oppose the Innovation Act.

Anyone who watches the ABC hit show “Shark Tank” knows the first question investors ask, “Where’s your patent?” Patents give firms the right to sue rival companies that copy their patented designs. By preventing freeloading and unfair competition, patents supply innovators with the confidence to hire workers, build facilities, and create new products.

Since Thomas Jefferson, patent protections have been the foundation of America’s economy. Industries that rely on intellectual property add $5 trillion and 40 million jobs to the U.S. economy. These jobs tend to pay well — wages in patent-intensive industries are 73 percent higher than the national average.

Admittedly, a small minority of companies have abused patent protections. These “patent trolls” acquire patents for obvious ideas and then file frivolous lawsuits against firms that “infringe” on these weak patents. Trolls have been a real burden to Silicon Valley tech companies, who waste time and money fighting off this extortion.

But in its attempts to fight patent trolls, Congress has harmed legitimate patent holders.