Opinions and Editorials

Nov. 13, 2019

Morning Consult: Congress Should End Piracy of U.S. Patents by Adam Mossoff

Pirates have become cultural icons today thanks to Walt Disney’s widely successful “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie franchise. But real pirates are not so honorable, nor do they engage in delightful antics like Captain Jack Sparrow. They are scoundrels who steal goods created by the productive labors of innovators and businesspersons who are driving the global innovation economy.

What happens when victims of pirates are made victims by the very laws that are supposed to protect them? It might be inconceivable when talking about classic piracy on the high seas, where pirates exploit the lack of enforcement of the law of nations, but this is exactly what has happened today when it comes to piracy of inventions under the patent laws today.

The patent laws have long protected U.S. innovators, securing to them the fruits of their inventive labors. The patent system gave us the great American innovators who revolutionized our country, such as Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Alexander Graham Bell, the Wright brothers and countless others. The result was a growing innovation economy and flourishing society in the United States.

Today, the patent laws have been turned on their head. Instead of offering the promise of reliable and effective property rights in new inventions, the laws instead promote a practice now known as “efficient infringement.” Everyone else would call this piracy. It is the deliberate infringement of the work of inventors and small companies by large companies who exploit weakened patent rights and administrative processes that make it cheaper to infringe than to respect these property rights.