Other Voices

Sensible, meaningful patent reform

Innovators in the United States who spend time, capital and energy to bring forth new inventions do so under a system that grants them ownership rights through a patent on their invention.

It is a system conceived by our Founding Fathers and grounded in our Constitution. Without a patent providing ownership rights, there is no certainty inventors can see a reward for the effort they make to develop ideas and bring them to market.

Congress is again taking up efforts at further reform of the U.S. patent system to curb harmful practices. Lewisville Republican U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, chairman of the House Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee, introduced one such bill: HR 2045.

Known as the TROL Act, the bill offers balanced, targeted solutions that will combat bad-faith actors without needlessly upending the U.S. patent system. Burgess should be commended for his efforts in crafting this legislation and the House Energy and Commerce Committee applauded for recently advancing HR 2045.

Any patent holder will attest that the U.S. patent system offers rights and protections that are crucial for patent enforcement. These safeguards allow U.S. and Texas independent inventors, startups, small businesses and universities to engage in the groundbreaking work that leads to life-enriching innovations that benefit a broad range of people throughout the country and the Lone Star State.

Our patent system also incentivizes innovation, encourages economic growth and spurs job creation at home and beyond.

This not only ensures Texas remains a national leader in these areas but keeps America globally competitive as countries such as China and India continue to grow at a rapid pace.

Maintaining a strong patent system also sends an unmistakable message to these countries that we value our intellectual property and will fight to protect it, which helps to prevent foreign counterfeit goods from flooding the U.S. market.

What makes the TROL Act a strong bill — especially when compared to other bills introduced in Congress on this issue — is its narrow approach.

At its core, this bill is about cracking down on abusive patent demand letters. Long considered a legitimate and invaluable patent enforcement tool, demand letters have become a preferred method for illegally extracting money from unsuspecting patent holders.

Of particular concern is the fact that these demand letters tend to target “mom and pop” small businesses that do not have the means to verify or fight these frivolous claims.

The TROL Act takes concrete steps to protect honest patent holders from such predatory behavior.

This bill targets the mass mailing of fraudulent demand letters, and it also requires the sender of a demand letter to cite at least one patent claim, which is significant because it guarantees the inclusion of specific information related to the alleged infringement.

These and other provisions in this bill will guarantee that Texas patent holders, particularly smaller entities with fewer resources at their disposal, have the support needed to battle and ultimately defeat issuers of bad-faith patent demand letters.

The House should pass the TROL Act so that the Senate has the opportunity to consider this important legislation. At the same time, lawmakers should avoid advancing harmful patent bills that will radically alter our nation’s proven patent system.

Much work remains on this issue, but Texas patent holders can rest easy knowing that Burgess has their best interests at heart as he works to usher the TROL Act through the legislative process.

Lathan Watts is a former city councilman and mayor pro tem of Lewisville and an attorney.