October 20, 2020

Professors issue conflicting views of patent reform


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IP-ProfessorsBy Sheri Qualters, From The National Law Journal

Dozens of academics have signed letters to Congress outlining contrasting concerns about pending patent reform legislation.

[In March], 40 economists and law professors who research patents wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee warning that proposals that make patent litigation much more costly could hamper innovation.

“If Congress is going to pass legislation that massively restructures the patent system, they shouldn’t do it on the basis of flawed and unreliable studies,” said Adam Mossoff, a George Mason University School of Law professor who signed that note.

That followed a March 2 letter to Congress, signed by 51 economists and legal scholars, supporting reforms that take tackle the high cost of patent lawsuits.

Last month [February], House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, and several colleagues reintroduced a new version of the Innovation Act, which passed the House in 2013 but not the Senate. The bill proposes various patent litigation reforms.

Last month, several senators introduced The Strong Patents Act, which would tighten pleading standards for patent-infringement cases and boost the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to target companies that send abusive patent infringement demand letters.

The March 10 letter complains that some parties in the debate have provided Congress with “flawed, unreliable, or incomplete studies.” For example, a claim that patent abuse costs businesses $29 billion per year “has been roundly criticized,” it says.

Its signatories believe the U.S. innovation system is at risk if reform isn’t done right, Mossoff said.

“We are not opposed to sensible, targeted reforms that consider the costs created by both plaintiffs and defendants in patent litigation,” the letter says. “Yet, tinkering with the engine of innovation—the U.S. patent system—on the basis of flawed and incomplete evidence threatens to impede this country’s economic growth.”

The first letter warned lawmakers to beware of efforts to discredit evidence of the system’s flaws.

“The preponderant economic picture these studies present is that patent litigation now imposes substantial costs, particularly on small and innovative firms, and that these costs have tended overall to reduce R&D, venture capital investment, and firm startups,” it said. “Not one study of the economic impact of current patent litigation concludes that the effects are negligible.”

Boston University School of Law Professor Michael Meurer, who signed the first letter, didn’t view the more recent letter as a direct rebuttal.

“We don’t in our letter endorse particular reforms,” he said. “All that we contend is that there is clear harm to innovation caused by excessive patent litigation and the rewards for effective reform could be great.”

In a written statement on Wednesday, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said he looks forward to the committee’s March 18 hearing on “the problem of patent trolls.”

“Last year, this committee spent months developing sensible, bipartisan solutions to address misconduct by bad actors who are abusing the patent system,” he said. “I look forward to continuing our work to enact meaningful legislation in the coming months.”

Photo: Mikhail Tolstoy/iStockphoto.com

For more on this story go to: http://www.nationallawjournal.com/id=1202720328088/Professors-Issue-Conflicting-Views-of-Patent-Reform#ixzz3UB0c3Mff


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