Opinion

Congress Must Protect American Innovators

The U.S. patent system is the critical legal shield protecting medical innovations as they make their way from America’s labs to the patients in every state who need, want and deserve them.

Patents are one reason why U.S. HIV/AIDS death rates are down 83 percent from their peak in the early 1990s. They’re why cancer death rates are down 20 percent from their peak, and the five-year survival rate for people with all cancers has soared to 68 percent. They’re why hepatitis C is now curable in more than 90 percent of treated patients.

Patents are the medical industry’s lifeblood, and our reliance on them as an industry is unique. Because while your smartphone might be protected by hundreds or even thousands of patents, the innovative new medicine you or your loved one take for improved health is usually only protected by a handful of them.

That is why our industry is fighting to protect the integrity of the critical patent system, which will ensure patients can continue to benefit from biopharmaceutical innovation.

We have a lot of work to do, and it needs to be done quickly.

In Washington right now, Congress is debating new legislation intended to address abusive practices by so-called patent trolls. While the intent of this legislation is good, certain provisions could have broad, unintended consequences that hurt legitimate patent holders.

Some of these provisions would increase requirements imposed on patent owners beginning a patent infringement lawsuit. This change would increase the cost, time and effort required to begin a legitimate patent enforcement action. And it would hamper the ability of legitimate patent owners to stop infringement of their patents. Furthermore, it could undermine the value of patents and incentives for innovation.

This bill also fails to remedy problems at the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) relating to a new petition process intended to make it easier to challenge patents at the PTO. However, this process is being exploited by predatory hedge funds that short-sell the stocks of patent holding companies – they challenge those companies’ legitimate patents at PTO to “spook” the stock market, then attempt to profit from a resulting dip in the patent-holding company’s stock price.

Any patent legislation must stop these abusive practices. In fact, in a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult, 61 percent of voters thought patients with life-threatening diseases would have fewer treatment options as a result of these actions. And more than 80 percent thought Congress should act to stop them.

Our industry is not alone in its concerns. As of today, 145 American universities, hundreds of businesses and independent investors in innovation have joined in registering their concerns about the bill.

America was born from great inventions, but built on having the wisdom to protect and defend those inventions through a strong patent system. Congress would do well to listen to the growing chorus of concerned American inventors and revise this legislation – now.

 

John Castellani is president and CEO of PhRMA.

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