WASHINGTON – Dean Kamen, founder of DEKA Research & Development, joined a group of fellow American inventors for a press conference call this week to highlight the negative impacts of H.R. 3309, The Innovation Act, and urge members of the U.S. House to vote ‘NO’ on the legislation when it comes up for a vote in the chamber today.
In addition to Mr. Kamen, participants in the call included: Dr. Greg Raleigh, Ph.D, CEO & Chairman of ItsOn Inc.; Dr. Gary Michelson, M.D., Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Hall of Fame Inventor; and Louis Foreman, Product Development & Innovation Expert, Producer of Everyday Edisons.
“These are real inventors – in the trenches, every day, trying to come up with the next best thing and the only way they are able to protect their rights to what they invent is through strong patent rights. We wanted to hear from them and what they think HR 3309 will do to their ability to enforce those rights,” said Brian Pomper, Executive Director of Innovation Alliance, who moderated the call.
Below are quotes from the inventors during the call:
Mary Kissel, a Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Member, asked a simple question in this video segment of Fox News Editor-at Large George Russell: Why is Australia re-nominating Francis Gurry to head WIPO? Frankly, this is an excellent question. One might also ask why the Obama Administration has failed to back an alternative candidate despite being implored to do so by Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle?
A source with knowledge close to the situation has also told me that “there will be other shoes to drop; the DNA episode is not the last.”
To the outside world Gurry is affable, knowledgeable and a perfect ambassador of the benefits of intellectual property. Internally, however, he hides things and fosters conflict so that he can rise to the moment and come to the rescue. Indeed, aside from the various scandals WIPO appears to be an extremely dysfunctional workplace, which can only hinder the mission.
Congressman Goodlatte (R-VA), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee
UPDATED: Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 at 1:13pm
Last week CQ Roll Call reported that House Judiciary Chairman, Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), is continuing to fast track the Innovation Act (HR 3309) despite growing concerns from both Republican and Democrat members of the House Judiciary Committee. CQ Roll Call reports that there are 8 members of the Judiciary Committee who are asking for more time to study the legislative proposal. Two of those 8 are Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), who is currently Ranking Member on the Committee and himself a former Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), also a former House Judiciary Chair.
It is hard to understand the rush to move on the Innovation Act, which was only introduced a little more than three weeks ago on October 23, 2013. Yet, despite bipartisan misgivings within the House Judiciary Committee and a growing concern among innovators and Universities, Goodlatte is planning a markup of the legislation for Wednesday, November 20, 2013.
By e-mail sent late this morning House Judiciary Committee Members were advised that if they wanted Amendments to be considered they needed to be pre-filed no later than 11:15am on Tuesday, November 19, 2013. Accompanying this e-mail were the current version of HR 3309 as well as the Manager’s Amendment.
Of course, action in Committee does not guarantee passage by the full House of Representatives, but a bill supported by a senior member of Republican leadership like Goodlatte should certainly get its day on the floor in the House if it makes it out of Committee, which I suspect it will. Even then it would have to go across the Capitol to the Senate before it would ever wind up on the President’s desk.
CQ Roll Call reported last week that House Judiciary Chairman, Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), is fast tracking the Innovation Act (HR 3309) despite growing bi-partisan concerns of those on the House Judiciary Committee. Reportedly, a markup of the legislation will be held at some time during the week of November 18, 2013.
But calling the Innovation Act fast-tracked doesn’t do justice to what is really happening. The Innovation Act was only officially introduced on October 23, 2013, and the Committee has not heard from any independent inventors or small businesses. Even the innovator community that stands to lose big is just warming up, this past week with a substantial coalition of University groups and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) weighing in for the first time, with BIO concluding that the “proposals are not supportable without significant amendment.” The University groups weighing in against the Innovation Act are the Association of American Universities, American Council on Education, Association for American Medical Colleges, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, Association of University Technology Managers and Council on Government Relations, collectively referred to in their position statement as “the Higher Education Community.”
If Goodlatte is already planning a markup in days and at the same time Universities and BIO are weighing in it almost seems as if the handwriting is on the wall, which it may well be in the House. Still, there are important reasons to want to stop the Innovation Act at least until significant, legitimate concerns are addressed and the bill is amended.
Tech sector giants have been crying and moaning about how the patent system has run amok and needs to be scaled back, and continually beg for patent reform that would gut the patent system and weaken patent rights. Immediately after successfully lobbying for the America Invents Act (AIA), they are back at it again supporting new legislation aimed at making it more difficult to enforce patent rights pending in Congress. If they prevail with the passage of the Innovation Act, they will be back at it again no doubt. The longer term goal is to strip the International Trade Commission of its patent jurisdiction, which would make it impossible to stop the importation of infringing goods prior to entering the country. See Will the ITC Lose Its Patent Jurisdiction and Are Some Patent Holders More Equal Than Others?
The grumbling of the tech giants is increasingly being picked up by patent abolitionists who say “see, even Microsoft thinks there should be no patents,” which only adds to the hysteria. Of course, Microsoft is one of the top patenting companies year after year and they aggressively pursue software patens themselves. So while some of Microsoft’s public statements suggest that they do not like software patents, they aggressively seek them and then aggressively pursue licensing strategies. So it seems that Microsoft may talk a good game about software patents being undesirable and a real scourge, but when push comes to shove they will get as many patents as they can. Quite curious if you ask me!
So why do the tech giants want to make it hard for small businesses and individuals to get patents? Do you remember when “Wang” was synonymous with “computer,” or at least “word processor”? Perhaps not, but once upon a time it was indeed. The story of Wang is the story of technology companies generally speaking. What has always been true is that technology companies that reach the top are only passing through on their way down; to be replaced by smaller, leaner companies that pursue appropriate strategies and have solid and expandable innovations in demand.
Even mighty Microsoft couldn’t maintain their monopoly, and only the foolish would anticipate Google, Facebook and other tech giants to be on top indefinitely. That isn’t how the tech sector works, or is intended to work. But if a vibrant, robust and strong patent system is not there for start-ups today they will never become the giant, innovation shifting, growth companies of the future. That would be terrible for the economy, lead to stagnant innovation and guarantee that slothful, giant companies that have lost the ability to innovate would remain dominant rather than going the way of the dinosaur.
Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the “Innovation Act,” HR 3309, a bill sponsored by the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and co-sponsored by 10 other Members from both sides of the aisle, including the Chairman of the IP Subcommittee.
The hearing focused on the effect the Innovation Act would have on the problem of abusive litigation practices and on the patent system as a whole. Three central themes emerged from the hearing: 1) there is an urgent need to fully fund the PTO; 2) significant skepticism remains about expansion of the Covered Business Method (“CBM”) program; and 3) some of the more technical aspects of the Innovation Act would help rid the patent system of expensive and wasteful lawsuits. Divergence of opinion remained among the Members, however, about whether Congress should address fee shifting at this time or wait for the Supreme Court to hear the two fee shifting cases before it, although the witnesses agreed that legislation on fee shifting would be helpful, and Congress should proceed with legislation on this front.
Note when reading the report below that the “Innovation Act,” HR 3309, is different than the “Innovation Protection Act,” HR 3349. The Innovation Act is the patent litigation reform measure introduced by House Judiciary Committee Goodlatte and others. The Innovation Protection Act is the PTO funding bill introduced by House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Conyers and others.
Left to Right: DePaul Law Professor Josh Sarnoff, Chief Judge James Holderman (N.D. Ill.), Ray Niro, Chief judge Michel (CAFC, ret.), DePaul Law Professor Roberta Kwall.
Former Federal Circuit Chief Judge Paul Michel gave an invigorating speech at the DePaul University College of Law Center for Intellectual Property Law & Information Technology (CIPLIT®) on October 15, 2013 at the 15th Annual Niro Distinguished Intellectual Property Lecture on the topic “How to Retain Patent Enforcement While Reforming It – Judges and Counsel Should Manage Infringement Suits, not Congress.”
To an evenly divided room of practitioners and law students, Judge Michel urged practitioners to take action against Congress’ incorrect understanding of the patent system. Judge Michel explained legislators are proposing bills because they are being heavily lobbied by a small (but powerful and well-funded) coalition of companies. He highlighted the common problem with the nine active bills currently before Congress. If passed, the bills separately and together would weaken the patent system; not strengthen it. None of these current bills would address the problems with the current patent system: litigation is slow, complicated and unpredictable. The bills, however, would make litigation slower, more complicated and less predictable. In short, congress’ solution would add to the problem.
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