As many Americans know, the presidential primary season is underway. Every day, we hear from the candidates as they lay out their vision for the future of America, especially as it relates to our economy and job growth. Our future economy is based on innovation, like the many life science and biotechnology companies being developed in Kentucky. Not only is our industry helping to tackle some of the world’s greatest health threats, but we are doing so while creating the next generation of jobs.
This economic growth can only occur if we have a government that supports innovative research and development. As the candidates share their visions for America, we encourage them to focus on one of the most important issues facing the country today: protecting the U.S. patent system. I urge candidates from both parties to highlight the importance of protecting a patent system that continues to incentivize innovation, promote economic growth and create jobs across America.
The U.S. patent system has for generations provided protections to the millions of independent inventors, startups, small businesses and universities that help propel our nation forward. Our patent system enables the research and development that leads to innovations that change the way we live and work. Once these new innovations have been brought to market, the patent system also ensures innovators are rewarded for their efforts, thus incentivizing further innovation.
This activity encourages economic growth and spurs job creation, with patent-centric industries contributing roughly $5 trillion to the economy and supporting around 40 million jobs in 2012. In fact, every two jobs in industries that rely heavily on patents supports an additional one job elsewhere in the economy. Simply stated, patents create a positive ripple effect throughout the American economy.
Our vibrant economy and strong patent system also guarantees we remain ahead of countries such as China, which each year robs American innovators of billions of dollars through the theft of intellectual property. Alarmingly, current patent legislation would not address China’s unacceptable behavior and would actually make it easier for it to continue its assault on our innovators.
There are two bills currently under consideration by the U.S. Senate (the PATENT Act, S.1137) and the U.S. House of Representatives (the Innovation Act, H.R.9) that contain overly broad reforms to the nation’s patent system. In fact, Sen. Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, recently indicated that he would like to move ahead with the PATENT Act in the weeks ahead. This is troubling because both the PATENT Act and the Innovation Act contain overly broad changes that stand to weaken the patent system and the rights of innovators.
I understand there are some bad actors that exhibit abusive practices and attempt to bring forward meritless patent lawsuits, but drastic changes to the entire system are not the answer. We should instead focus our efforts on targeted action and determine if the previously-adopted changes being implemented today are effective. The U.S. Supreme Court, Federal Trade Commission and USPTO have all taken meaningful steps to curb predatory patent activity, which led to a drastic drop in frivolous patent lawsuits in 2015.
I am hopeful that our next president understands the integral role the U.S. patent system plays in facilitating American progress and success. Until then, given its tremendous impact on the lives of all Americans, I encourage presidential candidates and lawmakers alike to stand in support of a strong U.S. patent system.
Kyle Keeney is the Founder and Executive Director of the Kentucky Life Science Council.