|For Immediate Release
June 22, 2011
Contact: Kim Smith Hicks, 202-225-3951
Floor Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith
H.R. 1249, the “America Invents Act”
Chairman Smith: The foresight of the Founders in creating an intellectual property system in the Constitution demonstrates their understanding of how patent rights benefit the American people. Technological innovation from our intellectual property is linked to three-quarters of America’s economic growth, and American IP industries account for over one-half of all U.S. exports.
These industries also provide millions of Americans with well paying jobs. Our patent laws, which provide a time-limited monopoly to inventors in exchange for their creative talent, help create this prosperity.
The last major patent reform was nearly 60 years ago. During this time, we’ve seen tremendous technological advancements, going from computers the size of a closet to the use of wireless technology in the palm of your hand. But we cannot protect the technologies of today with the tools of the past.
The current patent system is outdated and dragged down by frivolous lawsuits and uncertainty regarding patent ownership. Unwarranted lawsuits that typically cost five-million dollars to defend prevent legitimate inventors and industrious companies from creating products and generating jobs.
And while America’s innovators are forced to spend time and resources defending their patents, our competitors are busy developing new products that expand their businesses and their economies.
According to a recent media report, China is expected to surpass the United States for the first time this year as the world’s leading patent publisher.
The more time we waste on frivolous litigation, the less time we have for innovation.
Another problem with the patent system is the lack of resources available to the PTO. The average wait time for a patent approval is three years. These are products and innovations that will create jobs and save lives. Inadequately funding the PTO harms inventors and small businesses.
The bill allows the director to adjust the fee schedule with appropriate congressional oversight and prevents Congress from spending agency funds on unrelated programs. This will enable the PTO to become more efficient and productive, reducing the wait time for patent approval. Patent quality will improve on the front end, which will reduce litigation on the back end.
The patent system envisioned by our Founders focused on granting a patent to the first inventor who registered their invention. This is similar to the first-inventor-to-file provision in H.R. 1249. This improvement makes our system similar to the international standard that other countries use – only it’s better.
We retain both a one-year grace period that protects universities and small inventors before they file as well as the CREATE Act that ensures collaborative research does not constitute prior art that defeats patentability.
There are some who think this bill hurts small business and independent inventors, but they are wrong. It ensures that independent inventors are able to compete with larger companies both here and abroad. American inventors seeking protection here in the United States will have taken the first step toward protecting their patent rights around the world.
The bill also makes the small business ombudsman at the PTO permanent. That means that small businesses will always have a champion at the PTO looking out for their interests and helping them as they secure patents for their inventions. This bill protects small businesses and independent inventors by reducing fees for both.
This bill represents a fair compromise and creates a better patent system than exists today for inventors and innovative industries.
Patents are important to the United States and the world. For example, during the War of 1812, American troops burned the Canadian town of York, known today as Toronto. In retaliation, the British marched on Washington in the summer of 1814 to put the Capital City to the torch.
Dr. William Thorton, the Superintendant of the Patent Office, delivered an impassioned speech to the British officer commanding 150 Redcoats who were tasked to burn Blodgett’s Hotel, where the Patent Office was located.
Thorton argued that the patent models stored in the building were valuable to all mankind and could never be replaced. He declared that anyone who destroyed them would be condemned by future generations as were the Turks who burned the Library in Alexandria.
The British officer relented and Blodgett’s Hotel was spared, making it the only major public building in Washington not burned that day.
American inventors have led the world in innovation and new technologies for centuries, from Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison to the Wright brothers and Henry Ford. But if we want to foster future creativity, we must do more to encourage today’s inventors. Now is the time to act.
I urge the House to support the America Invents Act and I reserve the balance of my time.