The hi-tech industry is rediscovering the value of intellectual property rights with a major legislative win on Sept 7th as the House of Representatives approved the first significant overhaul of patent law in 50 years. Most hi-tech companies are at minimum watching, but many are actively engaged in the effort to overhaul the U.S. patent laws. Although couched in terms of the importance of patents and patent quality. The thrust of many of the measures are clearly directed at “limiting litigation abuses.” You can get a download of the bill at:
The Patent Reform Act of 2007 (S 1145) is designed to improve the quality of patents issuing from the Patent Trade Office, allow for more rigorous reexamination of patents that may have been issued in error, and remedy imbalances in the law that encourage patent speculators to file speculative patent infringement suits against good-faith innovators and manufacturers.
Unfortunately many “paper patents” that never built trade in the marketplace created an environment for patent speculators to buy these patents and file infringement suits against F500’s based on ambiguous descriptions of what is patented. The speculators often demand a royalty of somewhere between one and five percent, which literally can mean billions of dollars.
Sadly, the current state of the U.S. patent laws fails to discourage this practice, a practice that exists nowhere else in the world. And when a multi-billion dollar demand isn’t enough, they then argue to the court that employers are “willful” and should be punished by having the damages trebled because somehow the employer knew of the patent before the lawsuit was filed. Most often, these charges are based on a brief letter that merely mentions the patents and its possible applicability to unnamed products with no explanation.
Enough is enough!! S 1145 is an attempt to “balance the playing field” and improve the system for all users. It will:
- Establish new and more balanced procedures for calculating damages and determining “willful infringement”;
- Improve tools within the Patent Office for reconsidering patents that may have been granted improperly;
- Create new venue rules that will help ensure that cases are brought in districts that have a real connection to the parties and to the alleged acts of infringement.
The cost of frivolous patent litigation approaches billions of dollars a year and if the Patent Reform Act doesn’t pass, it’s expected that these expenses will continue to rise and will require companies to operate differently. The impact likely has “off-shore” ramifications on ability to compete, and drives up the costs of innovation.
How can you help? Go HERE and look up your congressman, then write them a letter. To help expedite a sample letter follows.
Dear [recipient/senator name here],
I’m writing to ask you to support the Leahy/Hatch Patent Reform Bill (S 1145). We have been actively engaged with other major hi tech companies and many other industry groups in this effort to overhaul U.S. patent laws for the past five years.
Here’s some background information that I hope will help you understand why I believe its so important to support this bill. The Patent Reform Act of 2007 is designed to improve the quality of patents issuing from the Patent Trade Office, allow for more rigorous reexamination of patents that may have issued in error, and remedy imbalances in the law that encourage patent speculators to file questionable patent infringement suits against good-faith innovators.
The current patent litigation costs have a significant impact on anyCompanies bottom line and exist nowhere else in the world. The cost of frivolous patent litigation approaches billions of dollars a year. If the Patent Reform Act doesn’t pass, we expect that these expenses will continue to rise. This has a real impact upon the ability to compete against foreign based companies, and drives up the costs of innovation.
Please help enact S. 1145 into law this year!!!
Important to note is the implementation of “logic puzzles“. A few Senators are not responding to emails unless they come from their Senate website. Be assured that your email messages are being received by their office and they’re being tallied and counted. The message you may get back from a Senator who cannot respond is – “he/she will not send a personalized reply to anything that does not come from his/her website”. If you receive such a response this means that your email was received and will be counted.
Send your letter today.
Senator Leahy/Hatch pictures courtesy of Wikipedia.