The bipartisan STRONGER Patents Act of 2019 took an important step forward last week, as the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property held a hearing on the proposed legislation. Senators Tillis and Coons, the Subcommittee’s Chairman and Ranking Member, should be commended for holding the hearing and focusing attention on our patent system’s role in promoting American innovation and job creation. As several of the hearing witnesses made clear in their testimony, our patent system has been dangerously weakened in recent years through a series of judicial, legislative, and administrative changes. These changes have undermined patent rights and made it difficult for inventors to protect their innovations from infringement. Meanwhile, our foreign competitors, including China and Europe, have strengthened their patent rights. This has put us at a competitive disadvantage and helped contribute to a trend of both innovation and venture capital increasingly moving overseas. For example, the U.S. share of global venture capital fell from 66% in 2010 to 40% in 2018, while China’s share increased from 12% to 38% in the same time period. And despite more than a decade of economic growth following the Great Recession of 2007-2009, startup formation has failed to return to its pre-recession levels.
This comprehensive legislation is exactly what is needed to strengthen our patent system, which will promote American innovation, competitiveness and job creation. For roughly a decade now, we have seen a steady weakening of patent rights in the U.S., undermining the ability of inventors to protect their innovations from infringement from large corporations and foreign entities. The STRONGER Patents Act says ‘enough is enough’ and ensures that patent rights are protected as a fundamental underpinning of our innovation economy.
Although the latest version of the PATENT Act (S.1137) represents an improvement over previous versions of the legislation, it would still make all U.S. patents less enforceable and cast an ominous cloud over startups and small inventors… The latest version of the PATENT Act notably fails to address the critical overbreadth problems of the customer stay, heightened pleadings, and discovery provisions. Together these provisions place an undue burden on the enforcement rights of legitimate patent owners.
Many of the provisions of H.R. 9 would unnecessarily undermine the enforceability of all U.S. patent rights, even when clearly valid patents are being enforced in good faith against clearly infringing actors. While a consensus on measures to target abusive behavior in patent litigation is achievable, the sweeping provisions of the Innovation Act cannot be supported.