Conservatives and Patent Reform Continued: Rick Santorum Responds | The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Conservatives and Patent Reform Continued: Rick Santorum Responds
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Comprehensive patent legislation is bad for small business and entrepreneurship in America, and conservatives should join me in supporting only targeted change to deal with abuse of the system. Gary Shapiro, whose organization represents giant technology companies, declares that H.R. 9, the so-called “Innovation Act,” would “protect small businesses and innovation… through transparency” in patent litigation. But Shapiro’s critique of my views misses the point entirely: H.R. 9 would have serious unintended implications for an entire innovation ecosystem in which small businesses and entrepreneurs thrive.

Patent rights are essential to innovators across our economy, from the garage inventor who creates the next generation bicycle, to engineers at research and development firms working on the future of wireless communications, to university professors and graduate students or small biotechnology firms developing cures for devastating diseases. The enormous resources these innovators spend on inventing can only be recouped by the promise of a strong patent right. Only with robust enforceable patents can the ideas generated by inventors today attract the investment to create the products and technologies of tomorrow.

The right of inventors to profit from their ideas has been a critical reason why the United States has led the world in innovation and creativity for centuries. Today, patent intensive industries in general contribute $9 trillion in value annually to the economy, with IP-based activity making up more than half of U.S. GDP. These industries support nearly 56 million jobs each year, more than a quarter of all jobs in the economy. And this economic growth and job creation far outweighs even the $1.9 billion in costs—a figure hotly disputed by scholars—that Shapiro attributes to patent trolls.

Small businesses especially rely on patents to thrive. Small businesses and individual entrepreneurs are responsible for 20 percent of gross job creation in the United States each year, and hold 16.5 times more patents per employee than large firms. Small entrepreneurial firms in the United States create and hold 58 percent more patents than all American universities combined. The Fortune 500 hold only 6 percent of all patents today, down from over 40 percent thirty years ago.

Broad, comprehensive patent legislation could wreak havoc on this innovation ecosystem, a system that our Founding Fathers enshrined in the Constitution. When I was in the Senate I supported efforts to impose sensible and targeted patent reforms that address abusive behaviors but continue to support American inventors and entrepreneurs. The so-called “Innovation Act” would actually weaken patent enforcement rights, stripping the small innovators of their incentive to invent in the first place. Making it more expensive for these entrepreneurs to enforce their patent rights and defend their ideas would only make it more difficult to attract further private investment in the ideas of the future, making it harder for startups to bring their ideas to market and create jobs.

Shapiro cites horror stories of small businesses threatened with demand letters or facing lawsuits, and it’s true that so-called patent trolls often target small businesses. But the truly abusive practices—such as threatening pre-litigation demand letters—aren’t even addressed in the Innovation Act! Not only would H.R. 9 make it harder for legitimate patent owning businesses to patent and defend their ideas, it does not even address the biggest problem it purports to solve.

Executives at Google, Cisco, Adobe, and other tech giants do not lie awake at night worried that their local coffee shop owner is going to receive an abusive demand letter from a patent troll. Shapiro’s claim that the Innovation Act helps small businesses is inaccurate at best.

I urge my friends in Congress to enact targeted reform that stops abuses of the patent system, but continues to protect the patent rights of the small businesses and entrepreneurs at the heart of American innovation.
— Rick Santorum
(Mr. Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, is chairman of Patriot Voices.)

Gary Shapiro replies:
Sen. Santorum, I appreciate your commitment to eliminating “truly abusive patent practices,” which as you note harm businesses big and small. But I think you need a basic primer on this topic, including the fact that smaller businesses, which comprise more than 80 percent of our members, are the primary victims of patent trolls. You can meet one of them here. In any case, I offer you a 10-minute response from someone more eloquent — and a bit more colorful — than I am.

P.S. I am paid by the Consumer Electronics Association’s 2,000-plus member companies, which together employ millions of Americans. If you are being paid by troll lawyers or others with an interest in scuttling this legislation please disclose this information.

UPDATE: Rick Santorum replies:
It’s sad to see a typical Washington response attacking the person instead of the policy arguments. I have fought for issues that I believe are best for all Americans, particularly the ones working hard to climb the ladder and make their lives and America better. It will come as no surprise to those who have followed my career in the House, Senate, and afterwards that I hold no patents and I haven’t received a cent for fighting against this big government “fix.”

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