Patent News

Feb. 20, 2014

Intellectual Asset Management: Independent inventors seek a voice on U.S. patent reform, by Richard Lloyd

This post originally appeared in Intellectual Asset Management (IAM) on February 20, 2014.

It would seem that the independent inventor community is starting to get its act together and voice its disapproval of Washington’s current attempts to reform the US patent litigation system. A group of more than 2000 inventors have put their names to a letter, which was sent to Congress on Wednesday, to highlight their concerns over proposed legislation.

The letter, which was addressed to Senator Patrick Leahy, head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Chuck Grassley, the Ranking Member on the Committee, raised three key concerns with the Innovation Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives late last year and is now bring considered by the Senate. Firstly, the letter points out that, under the terms of the proposed legislation, alleged infringers would be able to delay proceedings by asking the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to re-examine a patent’s validity multiple times. Secondly, it highlights that judges would have to make key decisions over the meaning of a patent claim before opposing sides have gone through a full discovery process. And finally, the letter stresses that the losing side in a case would have to pay the other side’s costs, significantly increasing the risks of bringing a suit.

The inventors make clear that they support steps to curb blatant troll-like behaviour such as, “bad-faith demand letters by shake-down artists who claim their patents have been infringed”. It points out, however that the proposals now moving through Congress go much further than that: “They would gravely undermine the ability of legitimate inventors to defend their work from willful and sometimes brazen infringers – especially if they are deep-pocketed corporations.”

The letter was posted to the Edison Nation website, the internet home of an organisation founded to help inventors bring their ideas and products to market. It asked the inventor community to sign on. Commenting on the thinking behind the letter, Edison Nation CEO Louis Foreman said: “Our goal is to make sure that Congress takes the time necessary to fairly hear from everyone this law would affect.”

As the head of Edison Nation and a member of the USPTO’s Patent Public Advisory Committee, Foreman is well placed to help to articulate the views of the inventor community. While he was called upon to speak on the floor of Congress on patent reform and the America Invents Act, when the IAM blog caught up with Foreman yesterday he revealed that he had had no formal input, thus far, in the latest attempts to reform the patent system. This letter might help change that.