From Connecticut to California, a dozen entrepreneurs from across the country gathered in Washington, DC, last week with a single goal in mind: patent reform. Armed with their own stories and experiences, they joined the Apps Alliance team for a day-long mission to urge Congress to pass comprehensive patent reform.
Some companies were sued or received baseless demand letters from patent trolls. Others avoided creating new products or services, or had trouble raising capital, for fear of being sued by a troll. In their more than thirty meetings with members of Congress and staff, these companies had one message: Without reform, patent trolls will continue to waste time and money that should be spent innovating and creating jobs.
Here are two key takeaways from the day:
Frivolous litigation instigated by patent trolls often causes irreparable damage to small businesses.
Michael Skelps, Founder & Owner of Capstone Photography from Middlefield, CT, joined us to urge Congress to take care of small businesses like his. “A patent infringement suit almost closed the doors to my business. I fought back and won but it cost my company productivity and jobs,” he says.
Peter Braxton, CEO and Founder, Jump Rope, Inc. based in Chicago, IL shares similar sentiments. “I fought back and won,” said Braxton. “Not everyone has the means to do that. If you’re a start-up or a small business, you have no chance against this kind of unfair litigation.”
“Unless and until patent trolls and plaintiff attorneys are discouraged by patent reforms, they will continue to thwart business, innovations, job growth and overall productivity of the entire ecosystem, but particularly that of smaller, cash-lean companies,” explains Kendrick Nguyen, General Counsel, AngelList based in California.
Patent reform is possible, with the support of Congress.
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced the Innovation Act in February 2015 to address abuses by patent trolls. Last week, while the Apps Alliance team and our group of innovators were in meetings, the Senate introduced a comprehensive patent reform bill, the Protecting American Talent and Entrepreneurship Act (PATENT Act). Like the Innovation Act, the Senate bill includes similar reforms to the House bill that will curb the financial incentives of patents trolls preying on small businesses around the country. Without comprehensive legislation, small innovators and businesses of all stripes and sizes will continue to make unjustified payments to predatory patent trolls, simply because settlements are less costly than hiring expensive patent lawyers.
If the Senate moves quickly on this bill, entrepreneurs such as these that gathered with us on the Hill could see real, positive change soon. With this protection, small businesses may just breathe a much-needed sigh of relief as they shift their focus away from battling patent trolls to innovating the next generation of products and services.
Policy and Government Relations Manager