For startups and innovators to succeed, policymakers must protect them with reform
Our policymakers need to be aware of just how costly low-quality patents can be when they fall into the wrong hands and must act now to close destructive loopholes in our patent system. In addition, other small businesses and startups like mine need to be aware of both the benefits and the limitations of intellectual property — and how to defend themselves against abusive patent litigation.
Low-quality patents are a threat for small businesses
Patent law is not something most Americans regularly think about, and you might assume that all patents are about new technology. In fact, the opposite is too often true — low-quality patents and abusive lawsuits can have a huge blockading effect on innovation. When low-quality patents are in the wrong hands they can be used to extort businesses that have done nothing wrong, and create barriers to innovation, competition, and access.
Small Businesses Are Paying the Tax of a Broken Patent System
When I made the decision to take my experience managing roofing, siding, and gutter crews and turn it into a technology startup – CompanyCam – I knew it was going to be difficult. Whether it was developing the technology, securing funding, growing our customer base, or any of the other daily barriers that come with starting a business, we faced new challenges every step of the way. I wasn’t naive: I knew that building something new was going to take a lot of hard work. What I never expected was to become the target of a patent infringement extortion scheme.
Standard-essential patents, federal policy guidance, and what it means for startups
Standard-essential patents (SEPs) are getting increasing attention in policy debates. For example, the Biden administration recently withdrew a problematic SEP policy from 2019, but has not yet replaced it with anything. In late 2021, federal agencies published a draft SEP policy that signaled promising steps towards restoring balance—balance that could free up more space for innovation, improve the landscape for competition in connected devices and beyond, and promote affordable consumer access to the latest technology. But the nation is still waiting for a decision on that 2021 draft policy, and it remains to be seen what last week’s withdrawal of existing policy without a replacement means.
Event Recording: The IoT Revolution: Brought to You by Standard-Essential Patents
Experts predict that by 2025, more than 75 billion IoT devices will connect to the web. Thanks to standard-essential patents (SEPs) enabling communication over Wi-Fi and cloud networks, innovators can create new IoT devices and applications quickly. But without a balanced licensing environment for SEPs, the IoT revolution will stall leaving consumers, businesses, and the economy behind. Luckily it’s not too late to fight back! Save Our Standards was launched last fall to bring together industry experts, consumer advocates, and small business owners to support a licensing system that empowers innovators and fuels the economy. This panel sheds light on how abusive practices in the licensing of SEPs occurs throughout the IoT value chain, and what impact such abuse has on consumers.
What We Heard From Startups This Patent Quality Week
The U.S. patent system impacts the lives and affects the work of every person and business across the country—including startups. But when the system becomes too complex or burdensome, when bad actors and invalid patents stand in the way of innovation, the system can block the progress it is supposed to foster. And oftentimes small businesses, the public, and even policymakers are in the dark about the system’s problems, frustrating our ability to solve them. That’s why during our second annual Patent Quality Week, Engine and the Developers Alliance hosted a conversation with startup leaders across the country about the various, sometimes harmful, ways they experience the patent system.
Improving Patent Quality Improves Innovation
June marks the return of Patent Quality Week, a coordinated effort highlighting the importance of quality when deciding whether to issue a patent. Dating back to the founding of the nation, patents have been viewed as a powerful tool for promoting progress and innovation. By allowing inventors a period of exclusivity to recoup their costs and enjoy the rewards of their work, patents create an incentive to invest in the future. This is especially true in sectors reliant on the advancement of science, such as pharmaceuticals and technology.
Patent Troll Uses Ridiculous “People Finder” Patent to Sue Small Dating Companies
The technologies we humans use to do these things are ever-changing, but the basic concepts aren’t. Software that promotes new types of social networking is a terrible fit for the patent system, which hands out hundreds of thousands of 20-year monopolies each year on inventions that are supposedly new, but often aren’t. No one should be able to patent an “invention” that simply describes a method of finding like-minded people.
Congress should restore Sen. Leahy’s patent system reforms
Sen. Patrick Leahy writes the final chapter of his career in Congress this year, after serving the American people for nearly half a century. While he has tackled a variety of issues, intellectual property has held a top spot on his priority list, from patent to copyright to trademark law.
The 101 on Section 101 (& more): Unpacking Today’s Hot Patent Policy Topics
Startups deserve a seat at the table every time patent policy is discussed. Even if the conversations in DC might not always feel directly relevant to our nation’s high-tech, high-growth startups, changes to patent law can have unintended consequences or big impacts on innovation and entrepreneurship. But when you wade into today’s policy debates, it also helps to know the context and background motivating the discussion and the relevant patent vocabulary and jargon.
Event Recording: Improving Patent Quality Improves Innovation
Traditionally, patents have been used as a tool to promote innovation by rewarding inventors for their efforts. However, when poor quality patents are issued, they can become a roadblock for true inventors who find it difficult to bring their products to market. This reduces consumer choice and protects monopoly prices at the expense of true innovation. We invite you to an online discussion about the importance of patent quality and the need to identify and address poor quality patents that deter rather than promote innovation.
Why Patent Quality Matters
This week is Engine’s second annual Patent Quality Week, focused on the many ways that the patent system allows low-quality patents to get through, the problems this causes, and what can be done about it. On this week’s episode, we’re joined by Abby Rives and Charles Duan for a discussion all about why patent quality matters.
To Strengthen American Jobs, Stop Abuse Of Patents And IP Laws
The US has important institutions like the ITC and USPTO to protect IP. However if they are delivering the opposite of their intended purpose, it’s time to change, reform, and modernize them. Reforming the ITC and strengthening the IPR process at USPTO can restore billions of dollars to the US economy and bring many new jobs.
Improving Patent Quality by Changing the USPTO’s RCE and Continuation Practices
Following the USPTO’s unsuccessful attempt to reduce the number of continuations and RCEs, the USPTO has declined to issue rules or make any internal changes that would change the status quo. In March 2020, 575,797 patent applications were unexamined. As of March 2022, 672,514 patent applications were unexamined. The number of unexamined applications will continue to increase unless the problems plaguing continuations and RCEs are addressed.
Revisiting the Liability Framework in Patent Infringement to Improve Patent Quality
Direct patent infringement is often considered a “strict liability” offense. It doesn’t matter if a person accused of infringement intended to infringe, or even if they never heard of the patent or a patentee’s product before the accused conduct. No, the inquiry for patent infringement is black and white: if a person “makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells” something claimed by a patent, they will be liable for direct patent infringement.
Letters to the Editor: Save America’s Patent System
Here, you’ll see a collection of “Letters to the Editor” that were sent to the New York Times, written by people and organizations who are voicing their belief that making common sense reforms to the patent system is an urgent and essential priority.
Patents impact everyone. Our policies need to reflect that
That’s why we at Engine, during our just-commenced second annual Patent Quality Week, are trying to demystify the patent system and chart a course for more meaningful and comprehensive public engagement.