House Talks Intellectual Property

May 16, 2018

On May 16, the House Committee on Small Business is holding a hearing titled, “Intellectual Property 101: How Small Business Owners Can Utilize Intellectual Property Protections in Their Businesses.” Please click here to view the hearing notice, and the witness list.

Intellectual property plays a vital role in protecting creative and innovative products and ideas. There are four main types of intellectual property: patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Each type of intellectual property has different attributes and criteria that must be met in order to be protected. Unfortunately, many small-business owners are not aware that they should protect their innovative products and ideas through intellectual property protections. Those small-business owners that are aware of intellectual property rights do not always know how to navigate the intellectual property process, and it can be very expensive.

For these and other reasons, NSBA supports the Support Technology & Research for Our Nation’s Growth and Economic Resilience (STRONGER) Patents Act (H.R. 5340), legislation aimed at strengthening the United States’ crippled patent system. The bipartisan STRONGER Patents Act would restore patents as property rights, make standards of protections in courts uniform, and protect start-ups from being out-resourced by technology incumbents.

Introduced by Reps. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) and Bill Foster (D-Ill.) the STRONGER Patents Act would reverse that trend by standing up for small businesses that rely on patents by providing court-level standards at the United States Patents and Trademark Office and providing injunctive relief against those who infringe on patents. It also protects small patent owners and start-ups by eliminating harassing, duplicitous patent demand letters, many of which are often sent in bad faith by so-called “trolls.” By defining the process of sending superfluous demand letters as a “Deceptive and Unfair Act or Practice,” the STRONGER Patents Act equips the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with the tools necessary to crack down on these trolls.

Last June, Senator Chris Coons (D-Dela.) and several co-sponsors introduced the STRONGER Patents Act of 2017 (S. 1390), and while the Senate has taken no action on the bill since, the introduction of the near-identical copy in the House may motivate Congress to move forward and take action on them. This year’s version of the bill, H.R. 5340, would make the same substantial changes to the patent system proposed in last year’s bill, such as:

  • Requiring the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) to use the same standards as district court when it rules on the validity of issued patents;
  • Restricting the ability of challengers to file and maintain inter partes review (IPR) proceedings at the PTAB;
  • Re-establish presumption of injunctive relief upon a finding of infringement in district court;
  • Reverse several Supreme Court precedents in order to make it easier to prove infringement in certain circumstances;
  • Empower the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to bring suit against entities who engage in misleading and deceptive practices through the sending of patent infringement demand letters.

NSBA remains concerned about patent litigation reform legislation and urges Congress to carefully consider the effect that certain provisions could have on our nation’s individual inventors, technology startups and innovative small businesses. NSBA is please the Committee on Small Business is holding this hearing to examine how small-usiness owners have used intellectual property protections to help their businesses and identify issues they have faced when navigating the intellectual property processes.

To read the full text of the bill, click here.

To read the NSBA letter of support, click here.