San Antonio Express News Opinion: Patent bill would have unintended consequences, by Thomas Kowalski and Michael Douglas
This article originally appeared in mySA.com on December 6, 2013.
Thomas Kowalski is president and CEO of the Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute. Michael Douglas is executive director of the Texas Life-Sciences Collaboration Center.
Patents are a fundamental building block of innovation: Inventors who commit time, energy and resources to create and develop new ideas, do so with the assurance their intellectual property and potential financial rewards are protected by a patent.
Without a defensible patent, there is no certainty inventors would see a return for the investments they make to develop ideas and bring them to market.
Congress has once again taken up efforts to further reform of the patent system even as many inventors and innovative companies are still digesting and understanding the impact of the provisions of Congresses last reform effort — the America Invents Act.
One such effort is HR 3309, the Innovation Act, which was passed by the House Thursday after only 43 days of deliberation. Supporters depict the bill as an effort to combat “patent trolls,” but the legislation proposes many more far-reaching changes that members of Congress included in the final version. Because of the short time the bill was considered, House members only had days to review the final version of the bill before last week’s vote, which hardly gave time for constituents to ask questions, raise concerns or offer feedback.
The Innovation Act as currently written weakens our patent system and will have unintended consequences on U.S. inventors. These additional changes to the patent system will result in a shift in the balance of patent ownership, favoring large and better financed companies over startups, investors and inventors who have been responsible for some of the most historic and groundbreaking discoveries in our nation’s history.
As leaders of organizations with members who are employers and innovators, we urge the Senate to be diligent in protecting the legitimate ownership rights of patent owners when they take up the Senate version of the bill: S 1720. We encourage our senators to take a slower, more considered approach to fully examine the impact this bill will have on innovators and innovation.
The patent system originally envisioned centered on the idea that they’re hard to earn. Our members have spent countless hours of research, testing and finding financial backing — with no guarantee of return — to make their products a success. That’s why their intellectual property should be protected just like other property in America. The idea of limiting or challenging the ownership to something inventors put sweat, hard work and determination into is completely unreasonable.
The “reform” proposals moving through Congress in their current form will ultimately stifle innovation, directly affect our business and the economy as well as employment rates throughout the country. Patents aren’t just empowering a handful of entrepreneurial businesses; they are fueling our entire economy. Every job in one way or another produces, supplies, consumers or hinges on innovation. Countless industries benefit from intellectual property, and according to a recent study conducted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, the IP industry generated an astounding 40 million jobs in 2010 alone, or 27.7 percent of all jobs in our economy.
Too much is at stake to weaken the very system that has inspired innovation for more than 200 years. We urge Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and the other members of the Senate to take the time to carefully review the impact of S 1720.