Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is critical to our nation’s economy.  A strong, balanced intellectual property law system provides the incentives necessary to create, invent, and expand businesses.   Many of the jobs and expansion that can help us recover from the costly economic recession will have their origin in the creation and use of intellectual property.

Patent Reform and Combating Patent Trolls

Senator Leahy was the lead author of the Leahy-Smith American Invents Act, which was signed into law by President Obama on September 16, 2011.  Senator Leahy worked for more than six years to craft consensus legislation to reform the nation’s antiquated patent system, which had not been updated in nearly six decades.  The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act made a number of changes to the patent laws in order to improve the quality of patents issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  Improving patent quality is a key way to ensure that the American patent system awards only truly novel and innovative inventions that create jobs and economic growth.  In contrast, low-quality patents drag down innovation and can be abused to needlessly tie up small businesses and inventors in litigation.

In the 113th Congress, Senator Leahy has focused on working in a bipartisan way to address abuses of the patent system by certain non-practicing entities, commonly referred to as patent trolls.  Senator Leahy is actively working on legislation with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and others to crack down on abusive behavior by patent trolls.  Chairman Goodlatte released a discussion draft of this legislation in coordination with Senator Leahy in May 2013.  In addition, Senator Leahy wrote to the Federal Trade Commission on June 20, 2013, urging it to more aggressively pursue enforcement actions against patent trolls under its existing consumer protection authority and create a website for small businesses to report abuse.

Cell Phone Unlocking

Until October 2012, the Library of Congress and the United States Copyright Office had in place a rule that allowed consumers to “unlock” their phones so that they could take them to competing providers at the end of their contracts.  After this rule was not renewed, Senator Leahy introduced the bipartisan Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act in order to restore it.  Senator Leahy believes that consumers own the cell phones they buy and should be able to take their phones with them to any provider they choose without worrying that they are violating the copyright laws.