Get ready: Another ill-conceived piece of legislation is about to wallop the U.S. economy, this time — adding insult to infringement — with a conservative-Republican gloss on it.
In their Wednesday NRO piece, “Restore the Founders’ Patent System,” my esteemed colleagues Representative Bob Goodlatte and Senator Mike Lee spent their first four paragraphs dishing out the boilerplate about the high importance the Founders placed on protecting our most innovative citizens, while touting their constitutional responsibility to curb abuses of the patent system.
All true and necessary. But H.R. 3309, their supposed effort to live up to the Founders’ expectations, which hit the House floor today, was never given the full airing promised, nor time to hear the multitude of credible opponents — from academia, from the legal profession, from independent inventors themselves. It even resembles Obamacare in the manner in which its progress so far has abused the legislative process.
The bill moved out of Chairman Goodlatte’s Judiciary Committee the day before Thanksgiving, when members had deserted Washington, and has been brought before the full House before even a full legislative day had passed. Why the rush? Why not wait until at least after the holidays for a vote?
I implore my colleagues to find out what’s in the bill. They really can do that before passing it.
Any bill with “loser pays,” those golden words of the litigation-reform movement, can enjoy an unquestioned pass in today’s House of Representatives.
But the sad truth of the Goodlatte bill is that the losers are the little-guy, independent inventors. The winners? The multinational corporations, with no allegiance to America, who have been on a decades-long march to neuter our patent system in the face of global competition.
We are told this bill is aimed at the threat of “patent trolls.” And just who are these miscreants? They are patent-holders or firms that represent patent-holders. They are engaged in defending their rights against the infringement of their own patents.
H.R. 3309 targets the wrong villains. Ample evidence shows convincingly that the overwhelming number of infringement cases are genuine, and that the very term “patent troll” is a catchy marketing designation designed to demonize inventors independent of the corporate bigs.
These patents are just as valid as any other one granted by the patent office, but huge corporate infringers would have us believe these patents are questionable, invalid, unworthy. That is not the case.
The patents targeted by the multinational electronics firms, for instance, are legitimate. They are projects of small inventors without the means to defend their ownership rights. (Who said conservative Republicans were giving up crony capitalism?)
And just what makes these vilified patents different from the “good” patents owned by the larger corporations themselves? To my conservative brethren: We are experiencing calculated confusion.
If the small inventor doesn’t have the resources to enforce a patent, an individual or company can still buy the rights from him or create a partnership to assure he isn’t cheated out of rightful compensation. But they’re left with a pebble vs. a mighty swift sword.
Typically, Goliaths win. Well-funded corporations deploying entire legal departments rightly see the Goodlatte bill as a means to encode the independents’ disadvantage. I have spoken with independent inventors, conservative political groups, the American Bar Association, industry groups and universities, and all of them recognize the horrifying imbalance.