Our founding fathers chose to provide legal protection of personal property from unreasonable search or seizure by an overweening government or other powers. They felt that a key liberty was that individual citizens could enjoy and control their own personal property. They supported intellectual property – in the form of patents – with a similar regard to protection.
The first US patent was issued in 1790. The US Constitution in Article I Section 8. Clause 8 – Patent and Copyright Clause of the Constitution says. [The Congress shall have power] “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” This was strong language.
Why am I giving you this history lesson here in my blog?
Because the historically robust US patent and trademark system has been under assail for the last 20 years and, particularly, since the passage of the America Invents Act in 2011 (AIA). Inventors' rights and protections have been dramatically eroded by AIA and its provisions.
Click on the blue button to grab your FREE – Congressional Resources – cheat sheet.
While there has been a lot of bad news for inventors ever since the AIA, there is good news and, in fact, something you can do to help. Read on.
The Bad News – The Current System is Rigged Against the Independent Inventor
In 2011, Congress passed a wrong-headed law called the America Invents Act (AIA).
For inventors, this should be called the America (no longer) Invents Act. Under the AIA, if became very easy for any third party to challenge a previously issued patent by appealing to a 3-judge administrative panel called the Patent and Trademark Appeals Board (PTAB). Amazingly, the PTAB was staffed by employees (not attorneys or real judges) of the USPTO at the pleasure of the director of the patent office with no effective oversight.
When the PTAB chooses to invalidate existing patents held by an inventor (which occurs over 85% of the time), there is no effective appeal remedy for the inventor other than to appear again before the same 3-judge kangaroo court – all of this at a cost of $500,000 to well over $1 million to the inventor in legal expenses.
The pernicious America Invents Act and the kangaroo court that is the PTAB has been a boon to companies choosing to infringe patents. Even when infringers lose in district court, the PTAB can overrule – and usually does – the district court and simply invalidate many or all of the claims within the patent. Large corporate infringers have millions in capital at their disposal to play the “long game”: going to court and appealing to the PTAB, knowing the game is rigged in their favor and against the inventor from the outset.
Inventor friends of mine, including Josh Malone (Bunch O Balloons) and Gene Luoma (Zip-it) and many other inventors have fallen prey to this devastating combination of terrible legislation and creative infringers. They and other inventors have had patents invalidated by the PTAB – handing victories to the infringers in many cases.
The Good News – The Tide May Turn with Your Help
An inventor-friendly bill has been introduced to Congress called the Inventor Protection Act (HR 6557).
HR 6557 was authored with the help of a lot of hard working inventors of US Inventor to address many of the inequities of current law under the AIA and other actions (including Supreme Court rulings).
Here is a short laundry list of some of the key provisions of the inventor-friendly HR 6557:
- Elimination of the PTAB – appeals of patent validity would be heard in district courts
- Inventor has choice of venue in his or her own state and jurisdiction – current law is the infringer's locations
- Expedited judicial proceedings – a trial must occur within 12 months – not multiple years as is the case currently
- Restore injunctive relief – infringers may be subjected to injunction from further sales of infringing products – pending legal resolution
- Recovery of legal fees – infringers found guilty would be subject to damages, plus pay legal expenses incurred by the inventor
HR 6557 if passed into law will finally restore patent protections and relief from infringement that inventors must be accorded.
What You Can Do – Ask Your House Representative to Support HR 6557
You can do something to help. Contact your US House Representative by calling or emailing him or her. Tell them that you are an inventor and you want inventor's rights to be protected and ask your Representative to support HR 6557. Thanks to the actions of concerned inventors, there are now 4 different bills that are under consideration that are finally favorable to inventors. HR 6557 is the best of them, so make sure to ask your representative to support it.
Grab the free PDF below – Congressional Resources – cheat sheet that provides you with links and information to make it easy to contact Congress. You really can make a difference to help inventors.