Patent News

Jul. 29, 2015

The Sacramento Bee: Federal ‘Innovation Act’ will undermine California’s economy, by Sara Radcliffe

This post originally appeared in The Sacramento Bee on July 29, 2015.

In recent years, the University of California has benefited from an annual infusion of nearly $100 million.

That money didn’t come from state coffers or private donors. It came from royalties and fees generated by the 11,500 inventions developed by UC researchers in recent years.

Unfortunately, this income stream is now in jeopardy. Congress will soon consider the misleadingly named “Innovation Act,” which would make it significantly harder for innovators to protect their creations from intellectual property theft. This bill is misguided – and it would have economically disastrous effects. California’s elected officials must oppose this legislation in order to protect our state’s world-leading inventors.

Patents prevent others from copying an inventor’s idea and creating a competing product. In so doing, patents provide inventors with the assurance their hard work can pay off.

Businesses and inventors are already struggling to protect their intellectual property from copycats. A 2011 federal law established a patent review board, outside the courts, to oversee disputes about the validity of a patent. Because of its pro-challenger standards, the board has developed a reputation as a patent “death squad” for its tendency to invalidate patents.

The Innovation Act would weaken patent protections even further by making it tougher for inventors to sue intellectual property thieves. Many in Congress think making it harder to file a patent lawsuit will combat “patent trolls” – people who patent vague ideas to extort licensing and settlement fees from companies that use the same idea in their products. Though well intentioned, the act would prevent legitimate patent holders from defending their designs against actual patent violators.

The law would require all patent suits to include “enhanced pleadings” – that’s legalese for boatloads of additional paperwork. This administrative burden will prove prohibitively expensive for innovators, particularly those operating on limited capital, like small businesses and nonprofits.