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U.S. can't afford to mar innovation

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There are several serious problems with the current bill. First, the proposed changes weaken the protection patents are meant to afford by introducing an "apportionment of damages" provision that chips away at the economic value of patents. By diminishing damages that would occur from infringing a patent, it devalues all issued and future patents.

Second, the bill creates a mechanism for endless post-grant oppositions. This would throw a cloud of uncertainty over all issued patents, further diminishing the incentive to innovate and invest in the manufacturing of new products. Many inventors, exhausted from defending the validity of their patent repeatedly, will be forced to abandon their patents.

The bill also proposes changing from the American "first-to-invent" system, which favors true innovators, to a European-style "first-to-file" regime, which favors the winners of a sprint to the patent office. Large corporations, with their legions of patent attorneys on staff, would undoubtedly have the upper hand against small inventors and university researchers in this race.

Other proposed changes take the teeth out of patents and make rights harder to enforce. For example, they make it more difficult to prove willful infringement; diminishing the threat of treble damages will only encourage infringement and promote litigiousness.

The proposed changes in US patent law will make it easier for offshore copycats to bring their pirated goods into the US with impunity. More jobs will be lost as a result, with devastating consequences for American competitiveness in the global economy.

A self-proclaimed goal of the Patent Reform Act is to decrease patent litigation. But lawmakers have forgotten that a patent does not even give an inventor the right to practice the patented invention – only the right to exclude others from practicing it.

The average cost of defending a patent in court is already about $4 million, an exorbitant cost for independent inventors, small companies, and universities. The proposed legislation would make it even more costly and reduce recoverable damages. Reducing patent litigation by making it more expensive to defend a patent only encourages unscrupulous theft of ideas.

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