It is time to act on patent reform

Changes will help protect Kentucky’s healthcare innovation sector.

By Randy Riggs and Kyle Keeney

As lawmakers return to our nation’s capital from the August work period, it’s as good a time as any to think about what lies ahead on the legislative agenda for the remaining months of 2014 and into next year. There are a host of unresolved issues that must be addressed, but none has as much of an effect on such a wide range of Americans or has such vast implications as patent reform.

Like so many other innovative communities throughout the country, the life science community in Kentucky was troubled by efforts over the course of the past year to overhaul our nation’s patent system. Not only does the current system provide hardworking patent holders with crucial rights and protections, it also encourages innovation and fuels our economy by creating jobs and promoting growth. We are hopeful that when our elected leaders return to Washington they will think of ways to preserve and strengthen the American patent system rather than debating drastic, counterproductive reforms that will only do unnecessary harm.

Critical Role
In 2010, patents supported 40 million jobs – roughly 28 percent of all of the jobs in the U.S. – and that number is even greater today. In the same year, intellectual property-intensive industries accounted for over $5 trillion in value added, or nearly 35 percent of U.S. GDP. What’s more, the U.S. Department of Labor found that 65 percent of today’s grade-school children will find themselves in jobs that have yet to be invented. Patents play a critical role in today’s economy but their positive impact on the future of job creation and America’s ability to remain competitive cannot be overstated.

Patents and the patent system are just as valuable to innovative businesses and Kentucky’s life science community as they are to the country as a whole. And consumers benefit from the life-improving innovations that patent holders bring to market each and every year. This symbiotic relationship is what keeps commerce moving here in Kentucky.

Better Solutions
The problem with previous patent legislation is that it was entirely too broad. There are far better ways to target harmful patent practices than simply wiping the slate clean and reversing decades of progress. One such way is the Targeting Rogue and Opaque Letters (TROL) Act of 2014, a bill recently introduced in the House of Representatives that targets malicious patent behavior without upending our esteemed patent system. This narrow fix will safeguard innovation and preserve the ability of honest patent holders to engage in legitimate activities that protect their ideas and products, and will isolate those seeking to exploit a model that has served us well for generations.

Another way to combat attempts to radically change the current system is to elect candidates in the upcoming midterm elections that will fight for the rights of patent holders. We need leaders serving in Congress that will stand up for small businesses and challenge those seeking to take advantage of them, not to mention folks unwilling to bow to special interests at every turn. There is no better way to make your voice heard than at the ballot box this November.

The life science community in Kentucky is confident that lawmakers understand the significance of this issue and the importance of protecting both patent holders and the American patent system. The best way to ensure both are well taken care of is to address patent legislation in a responsible fashion. By confronting bad actors and tackling destructive patent activity in a targeted manner we can alleviate the need for broad, needless changes to our patent system and have a positive impact on our economy and job creation efforts.

Randy Riggs is president & CEO at Advanced Cancer Therapeutics and Kyle Keeney is executive director at Kentucky Life Sciences Council.