Carla Hills weighs in against patent reform
We must not erode this incentive to develop novel ideas or restrict the opportunity for inventors to license their know-how. Unfortunately, there is legitimate concern that patent legislation currently pending before the U.S. Congress -- H.R. 9 (the Innovation Act) and S. 1137 (the PATENT Act) -- would do just that.
A stated aim of the pending legislation is to stop abusive patent litigation. Without question those who seek to abuse the patent system should be rooted out for the same reasons that our courts guard against abusive litigation involving physical property. But as currently drafted, the bills would fundamentally weaken basic patent rights by protecting infringers at the expense of patent holders. This would be devastating to small and large entities that invent or seek licenses to use inventions of others.
A particularly problematic component of the House and Senate bills is the so-called “customer stay” provision, which like other parts of the legislation is much broader than necessary to achieve its stated goals. The provision seeks to ensure that a business that buys and uses a patent-infringing off-the-shelf product may avoid litigation that is more appropriately brought against the manufacturer of the product. The provision would “stay” or stop litigation against such “customers” and force patent holders to first go after “upstream” manufacturers. The problem is that the definition of “customer” is so broad that the right to stay litigation would also apply to large manufacturers, assemblers, and retailers that may reap millions or even billions in profits from using and selling the infringing product or component.