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By Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.
The American patent system continues to be weakened following a series of recent court decisions and the unintended consequences of the post-issuance proceedings at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This concern is one I frequently hear from small businesses, inventors, established companies, patent prosecutors and patent litigators. Their sentiments are reflected in the recently released annual rankings of patent strength by the Global Intellectual Property Center of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The U.S. was ranked 10th, behind countries such as Singapore and Italy. In every previous year, our patent system has ranked first. As major competitors like the European Union and China work to strengthen their patent systems, the United States is moving in the opposite direction.This striking decline in American competitiveness should concern all of us because of the unmistakable value that patents have brought to our economy. The grant of a patent to a small business can increase its chance of obtaining venture capital funding and leads to increased job growth and more sales. Businesses that have patents, especially younger ones, disproportionately add jobs to the U.S. economy. On a broader scale, patent-intensive industries accounted for more than $800 billion in value added to the U.S. economy in 2014, directly supporting 3.9 million jobs. These jobs are higher-paying than most, paying on average a 74 percent wage premium compared to non-IP-intensive industries. Technology and science-focused companies are the economic engine of our society, not only providing good jobs but also contributing directly to a higher standard of living through life-saving products and newer, better services.However, because our legal framework for intellectual property has failed to keep up with our nation’s innovators and inventors, I fear that we are poised to cede our competitive edge in innovation to the long-term detriment of our economy. A few key themes have emerged for what is ailing our patent system. The first is the inability to have certainty in the grant of a patent right, impacting the ability of a patent to justify investments in the research and development needed to bring inventions to market as products and services. The second cause of our decline is the inability to enforce this granted right in a meaningful way, consistent with its historic status as a property right.
I have heard these concerns repeatedly, and that is why I am introducing the Support Technology & Research for Our Nation’s Growth and Economic Resilience (STRONGER) Patents Act in this Congress, specifically to address these concerns and others. Some readers may recall that I introduced a version of this bill last year, with the goal of making the post-issuance proceedings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board more fair and efficient. The key provisions of the prior bill remain, and new provisions address additional challenges our inventors are currently facing.I will briefly outline how the bipartisan STRONGER Patents Act of 2017 would address these emerging concerns and provide the first step toward strengthening the U.S. patent system. I will also explain why I believe this bill is part of a broader agenda to restore the U.S. patent system to the world’s gold standard.
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