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August 19, 2007

Patent bill jeopardizes life sciences innovation

Sidney Taurel of Eli Lilly writes in the Indianapolis Star: "The Patent Reform Act of 2007 would greatly limit the damages many inventors could receive when their patents are violated, and create a new administrative process for attacking patents via the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office - without court protection."

Taurel continues -

The proposed system for allowing administrative challenge procedures to continue throughout the life of a patent would keep clouds of uncertainty hanging over what are now valuable company assets. Research and development in the life sciences almost certainly would dwindle, resulting in fewer breakthroughs for patients and diminished prospects for economic-development efforts.

Hundreds of other innovation-based businesses, along with individual inventors and entrepreneurs, universities and labor groups share Lilly's opposition to the bill. But the most powerful evidence against the proposed changes comes from those who hope the bill will become law.

The Economic Times of India excitedly reported last month that "a crucial bill making its way through the U.S. Congress is set to give a new inexpensive option for Indian drug makers to attack the patents that give monopoly rights to top-selling brands in the largest pharmaceutical markets. . . . It allows one to challenge a patent anytime during its life at a fraction of the cost of litigation."

Translation: Some foreign interests see this bill as Americans about to give away the store.

U.S. companies that support the bill -- including Dell, Microsoft, Palm and other information technology businesses -- have a different perspective as aggregators and assemblers of innovation. They typically do not rise or fall on individual discoveries and are angered that courts have on a few occasions forced them to pay hefty penalties for infringing patents on components of the much more complex products they sell.

But entire segments of the U.S. economy do in fact rise or fall on individual discoveries -- notably the life sciences sector. That's why the current version of patent reform must be rejected. Scratching one industry's itch should not drive a stake into another industry's heart.

Let's look for remedies that will promote innovation across the board -- which is, after all, our country's competitive advantage.

Posted by Patent Hawk at August 19, 2007 11:26 PM | The Patent System


"without court protection" - really?
Won't there be a right of Appeal?

Posted by: Duncan at August 20, 2007 3:55 AM

"without court protection" - that struck me too as a bit odd, and no further context was provided. But I have not studied the bill that carefully, so quoted without comment.

Posted by: Patent Hawk at August 20, 2007 10:35 AM