Opinions and Editorials

Jan. 23, 2020

Wall Street Journal: America’s Innovators Need Clear Patent Laws by Judge Paul Michel and Matthew Dowd

America is the world’s leader in technological innovation, and that’s unlikely to change. But in the global economy, information and investments flow instantaneously, and America’s most important asset—intellectual property—is easily copied and counterfeited.

Making matters worse, a string of court decisions have weakened U.S. intellectual property rights. The Supreme Court passed up deciding important cases this month that could have reversed the trend. These events diminish confidence in the U.S. patent system and undermine American global competitiveness.

The Founders believed patents were so important that those rights were enshrined in the Constitution even before the Bill of Rights guaranteed free expression and other important liberties. By assuring inventors exclusive rights for a limited time, the U.S. patent system enables companies large and small to recoup their investments in research and development. It even allows amateur innovators to become major disrupters. Google traces its origin to two U.S. patents, one granted to Larry Page and the other to Sergey Brin, filed in the late 1990s while they were students at Stanford.

But today’s U.S. patent system is a shadow of its former self. Tech giants, anxious to stave off competition, have worked tirelessly, under the guise of “reform,” to undermine the value of U.S. patents. The result is enormous confusion about patent rights, uncertainty for innovators and investors, and substantial harm to U.S. competitiveness.