Conservatives and many academics are stepping up their opposition to a Republican-backed patent-reform bill in Congress that they warn will trample on American inventors’ rights in the name of stopping frivolous lawsuits.
Two dozen prominent conservative political groups, led by the influential American Conservative Union, the Club for Growth and the Eagle Forum, sent a letter earlier this year to House Speaker John A. Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Democratic leadership seeking to block floor votes on the so-called Innovation Act.
The bill is being shepherded through Congress by Republican Reps. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Darrell E. Issa of California to reform patent laws and diminish the rise of “patent troll” lawsuits, in which parties seek to win money for infringements of obscure patents.
But the conservative groups argue the bill, which is backed by Google, goes far beyond what is necessary to address the litigation issue and instead creates a big-government solution that could infringe on inventors’ rights and actually increase legal disputes.
The current version of the legislation “would weaken American patents and the ability of innovators — particularly independent inventors — to secure their constitutionally guaranteed right to their inventions and discoveries,” the conservative groups argued in their letter.
“While sponsors and proponents of this legislation claim it is designed to curb abusive tactics in patent litigation, the bill would in fact increase litigation at the expense of innocent inventors,” the letter added. “The bill’s overly broad provisions apply to all litigants seeking to assert patents, not just ‘patent trolls,’ and as a result will severely undercut the ability of inventors to enforce their intellectual property rights, ultimately devaluing patents, stifling American innovation, and diminishing our global competitiveness.”
The intraparty dispute has raged for weeks, surfacing at February’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, where 2016 presidential contender Carly Fiorina led the charge against the legislation in a series of speeches and visits with conservatives.
Across the political aisle, Sen. Christopher A. Coons, Delaware Democrat, is offering an alternative patent-reform solution that is narrower in scope and may draw some Republican support.
Economists and lawyers, likewise, have made some objections to the bill, suggesting it may create new problems in an effort to fix a current concern.
“Legislation that substantially raises the costs of patent enforcement for small businesses risks emboldening large infringers and disrupting our startup-based innovation economy,” 40 academics argued in a letter to Congress.
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