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. The Innovation Alliance commends Senators Coons and Cotton for introducing the bipartisan STRONGER Patents Act of 2017. This comprehensive legislation is exactly what is needed to strengthen our patent system, which will promote American innovation, competitiveness and job creation.
Weakening of patent system
As the result of a series of patent-weakening Supreme Court decisions, legislative changes and administrative measures over the last decade, the U.S. patent system is no longer considered the global gold standard for intellectual property rights. While the U.S. has been curtailing patent protections, our foreign competitors, such as China and Germany, have been moving to strengthen those protections and promote innovation in their countries. Notably, in 2016, the U.S. fell to 10th place in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s international ranking of patent system strength, falling behind countries such as Singapore, Spain and Italy.
This weakening of U.S. patent rights has led innovation – and the jobs and economic growth that go with it – to increasingly move overseas, along with the venture capital that funds so much of our start-up and entrepreneurial growth. In 2015, the U.S. share of global venture capital shrank to 54%, down from 83% in 1996, and many of the largest venture investments in the world are now occurring outside the U.S.
Need for renewing act
Representing an updated and expanded version of Senator Coons’ STRONG Patents Act of 2015, the STRONGER Patents Act takes critical steps to improve the patent system. It treats patents like any other property, permitting injunctions to protect patent owners against infringement during and after court cases. It ensures fairness in Patent Office administrative proceedings, limiting repetitive and harassing challenges against inventors. And it ends the diversion of patent application fees to other government spending, ensuring the Patent Office has the funding needed to grant high-quality patents without harmful delay.
At the same time, we have seen legislative proposals, such as the Innovation Act (H.R. 9) and the PATENT Act (S. 1137), that would further weaken patent rights. Had these bills passed, they would have greatly advantaged just a few companies to the serious detriment of American innovation.
Patents provide a vital incentive for inventors, entrepreneurs, start-ups and universities to innovate and bring new technologies and medical breakthroughs to market. The American patent system, which is based on constitutionally-guaranteed patent rights, has been central to creating an innovation ecosystem that has produced the strongest economy in the world. The U.S. must adopt policies that strengthen our patent system, instead of further weakening it.
The Innovation Alliance urges Congress to take up and pass the STRONGER Patent Act to help restore the U.S. to its position as the global leader in innovation.