Minnesota is a state of innovators – we generate enormous amounts of economic activity from our innovation industries. Those industries were founded by great thinkers with great ideas – and protected by the United States’ vigorous patent protection system. That system is now under attack – and the victim could be the next Medtronic, 3M or Honeywell.
The proposed Innovation Act (H.R. 9) and the PATENT Act (S. 1137) represent a well-intentioned yet misguided effort to address abusive patent activity. While this legislation does feature some improvements over past pieces of similar legislation, it largely picks up right where the past year’s patent debate left off and includes many of the same shortcomings and overly broad provisions. In its current form, this bill will do much more harm than good and place an undue burden on America’s patent holders.
It is a well-established fact that the U.S. patent system supports our nation’s patent holders in a number of different ways. The strong rights and protections afforded to patent holders under the current system shield their hard-earned property and reward successful innovation. The U.S. patent system is also a key driver of economic growth and job creation throughout the country. This benefits a broad range of people here at home but it also keeps America globally competitive and cements our position as a premiere global innovator.
Maintaining a strong patent system also sends a clear message to countries like China that we deeply value the property of patent holders and will stop at nothing in defending it. This prevents counterfeit goods from flooding the domestic market and stops infringers in far-away places from illegally profiting off of American ingenuity.
The current version of these bills before Congress threatens to weaken our patent system and the rights of patent holders, making it much more difficult for them to protect their property. This bill would also stifle innovation, slow economic growth and hamper job creation. Patent legislation would negatively affect the University of Minnesota’s robust program for obtaining protection for University invention and for finding partners to bring these inventions to the market. These projects have contributed greatly, including the creation of new jobs to the areas in Minnesota in which they are located.
I am all in favor of going after “trolls” that prey upon honest patent holders and abuse our patent system, but the PATENT and Innovation Acts fall short of that objective. The sweeping language found in this legislation would instead place some of America’s most important innovators – independent inventors, start-ups, small businesses, universities and R&D-based companies – at a severe disadvantage to larger, more powerful entities with infinitely more resources at their disposal.
I appreciate lawmakers bringing forward meaningful ideas that seek to confront bad-faith actors. But I encourage our Minnesota Congressional Delegation to consider how important our innovators are to Minnesota’s economy and to leave America’s patent holders positioned for success for many years to come.