March 03, 2015

COONS, DURBIN, HIRONO TO INTRODUCE PATENT REFORM BILL TO PROTECT INNOVATION, CONFRONT ABUSE

Bill Would Target Patent Abusers While Strengthening Patents and American Innovation

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, will introduce legislation on Tuesday morning to strengthen America’s patent system and target abusers. The STRONG Patents Act takes a series of focused, thoughtful steps to make the patent system work for individual inventors and research-intensive companies from every sector of the economy. It would make it harder for firms to be targeted with frivolous patent lawsuits, level the playing field between small inventors and large companies, and ensure the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has the resources it needs to ensure patent quality.

“Invention has long been the foundation of our nation’s prosperity and global leadership,” Senator Coons said. “As our economy continues to grow and diversify, we need to ensure our patent system works for everyone, including inventors from all sectors of the economy. We must stay true to that part of the American Dream that says anyone with a great idea can change the world. The STRONG Patents Act includes targeted thoughtful reforms to combat abuse where it’s prevalent while ensuring our rich innovation ecosystem remains vibrant. From advanced biofuels to the lifesaving cures that give people a reason for hope, patents have fueled the innovations that help us meet some of our biggest challenges. I look forward to working with my colleagues to strengthen America’s engine of innovation.”

“It’s time to move past the false premise that the only way to deter ‘patent troll’ abuses is to enact sweeping reforms that weaken patent protections for everyone,” Senator Durbin said. “For generations, our carefully crafted system of patent laws has helped America lead the world in innovation. Rather than fundamentally rewrite those laws – for the second time in 5 years – at the request of a few industries, we should instead seek to narrowly target and deter abusive troll behavior while preserving the ability of legitimate patent holders to protect their innovations.”

“America's strong patent system drives innovation and fuels long-term economic growth,” Senator Hirono said. “I am proud to join Senator Coons and Senator Durbin in introducing the STRONG Patents Act – a bill that supports our innovators by restoring balance and improving quality in the patent process.  Small businesses and entrepreneurs form the backbone of Hawaii’s economy, and the STRONG Patents Act takes important steps to protect businesses harmed by abuses in patent litigation without unnecessarily burdening innovative start-ups and inventors.”

The STRONG Patents Act would strengthen our patent system and combat abuse by:

  • Cracking down on abusive demand letters by empowering the Federal Trade Commission to target firms that abuse startups rather than invent anything;
  • Ensuring that pleading standards for patent-infringement cases match the standards used for all other forms of civil actions, creating a significant barrier to frivolous lawsuits before any funds are spent on discovery;
  • Eliminating fee diversion from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) so we can ensure that those who examine patents have adequate training and dependable funding;
  • Ensuring balance in post-grant proceedings at the PTO, so that this expedited form of patent litigation is both fast and fair; and
  • Analyzing the impact that our patent system has on small businesses, both from the perspective of startups reliant on patents and those small businesses facing allegations of infringement.

Today, intellectual property-intensive industries comprise one-third — $5.5 trillion — of America’s GDP. They generate 27 million jobs and pay employees over 30 percent more than other industries.

In a statement of support, the Association of American Universities said, “We thank Senator Coons for introducing the STRONG Patents Act of 2015. AAU supports this legislation because it targets the abusive practices of patent trolls through judicious, carefully calibrated measures that would not make it more difficult and costly for all patent holders to enforce their patents and thus diminish the overall strength of the U.S. patent system. Universities’ ability to move their discoveries to the private sector for the benefit of the public through technology transfer depends on a strong patent system. It is our hope that Congress will take up this legislation in the coming weeks.”

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities said, “The STRONG Patents Act of 2015 is a straightforward bill that would effectively crack down on the abusive practices of so-called patent trolls without weakening the U.S. patent system. Universities rely on a strong patent system to ensure that research discoveries can be transitioned to private sector entities, which can scale-up and develop marketable products that improve quality of life and fuel the economy. This measure would help ensure the strength of this technology transfer process, which significantly contributes to our nation’s leadership in science and technology.”

Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) President and CEO Jim Greenwood said, “BIO supports balanced reforms to reduce abusive patent practices, while maintaining the strong incentives necessary to sustain our nation’s global leadership in biotechnology innovation and the creation of high-wage, high-value jobs throughout our country.  The STRONG Patents Act of 2015 achieves this critical balance. I commend Senator Coons for his leadership in drafting legislation that cracks down on false or deceptive patent demand letters, re-balances post-grant proceedings to ensure fairness for patent owners and prevent growing abuses, eliminates diversion of PTO user fees and protects the rights of American entrepreneurial businesses. BIO supports the STRONG Patents Act of 2015 and will continue to advocate for passage of legislation to curbing abusive patent practices, while not undermining the ability of patent owners to defend their inventions and businesses against infringement.”

A copy of the full bill can be downloaded here:

http://coons.senate.gov/download/strong-patents-legislation

Additional information can be found online at: www.coons.senate.gov/patents