Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ranking Member Conyers Statement at Patent Markup

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a full committee Markup of H.R. 3309, the “Innovation Act.” During his opening remarks, Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“There are few economic issues our Committee or this Congress will face that are more important than our patent law system. Intellectual property is responsible for nearly half of our Nation’s gross domestic product and one third of all jobs in the U.S. economy.  Our patent system, while not perfect, is the envy of the world. As I have stated before, I believe the issues of non-practicing entities or so-called patent ‘trolls,’ present some unique problems that are worthy of congressional attention. There is a disconnect when shell corporations -- with little or no assets -- can systematically abuse the patent system. If we don’t know who these shell companies are, and – if they are able to unfairly threaten hundreds, if not thousands, of unsuspecting retailers –  we have a problem that requires a legislative solution. Unfortunately, the legislation before us overreacts to these issues and it would severely undermine the role of our federal judiciary in general and innovation in particular. 

“I have been working my entire career to help foster an independent judiciary that can resolve disputes between parties on a fair and dispassionate basis based on an evenhanded set of rules. As a matter of fact, that is exactly what is happening now. The federal circuit and the Supreme Court are in the midst of altering the rules for patent fee shifting, discovery, and pleadings, among other things. There is little doubt that the federal judiciary – as evidenced by its exceedingly deliberative rulemaking process – is in a far better position than 535 Members of Congress to set the proper rules for their own court rooms on these matters.

“Furthermore, by unbalancing the patent system we send a signal to inventors –  the very people doing the research and developing the cures that we benefit from every day – that their inventions are not worthy of full legal protection. This means that the next cure for cancer or technological break though may be stymied and never come, or may be developed abroad rather than in the U.S.

“And, by limiting the Committee to a single legislative hearing, by skipping subcommittee and moving to markup prematurely, we make it all the more difficult for Members and stakeholders to provide meaningful input into the process.

“There is a broad range of patent experts and stakeholders who agree with me, and have expressed significant concern if not outright opposition to the bill before us, including the:

                      Federal Judicial Conference,
                      the American Bar Association,
                      the American Intellectual Property Law Association,
                      the Patent Officers Professional Association,
                      the American Association of Universities,
                      the Biotechnology Industry Association,
                      the Twenty-First Century Patent Coalition,
                      the Innovation Alliance,
                      the American Association for Justice,
                      the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association,
                      the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers,
                      the National Association of Patent Practitioners, and
                      the National Bankruptcy Conference.

“Because I feel so strongly that Congress must get this issue right, Ranking Subcommittee Member Watt and I will offer a substitute that responds to the real and identifiable problems of patent abuse without upsetting the entire patent law system. Our substitute will also take the single most viable step we can take towards improving patent quality – ending fee diversion so that poor quality patents are not issued to begin with. 

“I am willing to roll up my sleeves and work with all of the Members of this Committee in developing a fair, reasonable and measured approach to patent reform. This Committee has a long history of cooperation between the Chair and Ranking Member on intellectual property matters.  And while in my judgment that cooperation has been lacking thus far, I am hopeful we can work together to improve the legislation so that it can pass the House and Senate and be signed into law.”

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