If you the latest patent news, you’re likely to see the same stories repeated over and over again. Companies, state and federal governments and ordinary citizens are worried about patent trolls, and others who would abuse the existing system. This is a primary reason why Congress is considering yet another overhaul to the patent system just a few years after the America Invents Act.
But sometimes the noise can bury the lead, so to speak. At least that is the opinion of seven major American companies, that have banded together to form the Partnership for American Innovation (PAI). The companies, Microsoft, DuPont, Ford, GE, IBM, Apple and Pfizer, are leaders in manufacturing, healthcare and high technology, and have one common message they want to send to the American public – and Congress.
“We are pro reform, but pro smart reform,” says David Kappos, partner Cravath, Swaine & Moore, LLP, former director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and senior advisor to the PAI. “The patent system is tied to things that are real, employment and growth opportunities, national competitiveness. Strong innovation is tied to a strong patent system.”
And that, ultimately, is the message of the PAI. With so much attention focused on the negative aspects of patents, such as patent trolls and patent wars, the image of the patent system in the United States is tarnished. But, says Kappos, this constant attention on the negative is what truly hurts the patent system.
“The companies in the partnership have different points of view, but all have business dependent on intellectual property,” Kappos explains. “They invest $35 billion a year collectively in research and development and have 1.2 million workers in innovation-based enterprises.” These statistics are getting lost in the fog of negativity, and Kappos says, the reason the companies in the partnership have joined forces is to bring a new voice to the debate.
Kappos said that, even with the great diversity in the group (which is looking into adding members soon), finding common ground was not difficult at all. He pointed out that the PAI is not a lobbying organization, nor is it taking deep, detailed positions on specific pieces of legislation. Rather the organization is focusing on creating a public channel to get out a higher level, positive message about the IP system. “It’s easy common ground for companies that believe in innovation and incentives,” says Kappos. “We’re consensus driven, have everyone together on these messages, and want to keep the group as one that does not repeat work the individual companies are doing and what other groups are doing.”
There are certain specific points that the partnership supports. It believes the USPTO should be permitted to keep and use the fees it collects, grant effective and high-quality patents, and not discriminate against types of innovation in patent granting, such as limited the patentability of software.
What it comes down to, according to Kappos, is “innovation is vital to our nation’s success. It has been, is and will be in the future. Patents are a powerful incentive for innovation and inventions that lead to innovation. And this country needs to have a strong patent system to remain a global leader in the global innovation economy, as we have for over 200 years.”
And, if the PAI can get is message out, then the U.S. will be a leader in innovation for at least 200 more.