09.21.21

Leahy And Tillis Introduce Bipartisan Bills To Boost American Innovation

WASHINGTON (TUESDAY, Sept. 21, 2021) -- Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Intellectual Property Subcommittee, on Tuesday introduced a pair of bipartisan bills aimed at improving the participation of Americans from all backgrounds in the patent system and ensuring that the public knows the true owners of patents.

The Unleashing American Innovators Act builds on the legacy of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, which was enacted ten years ago this month and included key provisions designed to improve access to the patent system.   

The Unleashing American Innovators Act requires the Patent Office’s satellite offices to conduct outreach to increase participation in the patent system by women, people of color, military veterans, individual inventors, and other groups that are underrepresented in the system.  It further requires the Patent Office to study whether additional satellite offices are needed to increase those groups’ participation in the patent system.  Their bill also creates a network of smaller community outreach offices, which will partner with local community organizations to create community-based programs to educate Americans about the patent system and the benefits of innovation and entrepreneurship.

The bill also establishes a patentability assessment pilot program to assist first-time prospective inventors in determining whether an idea they have is likely to meet the threshold for patentability.  And it lowers application fees for small businesses and micro entities even further than the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. 

“By building on the structures we put in place in the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act ten years ago, we can ensure that the next generation of innovators in America reflects the full potential of our greatest natural resource – the genius of the American people,” Leahy said.  “Expanding access to the patent system is not a partisan issue; it is an issue of maintaining American competitiveness and extending opportunity to all Americans, no matter their background, economic status, or location.” 

“I’m proud to introduce this measure with my good friend Senator Leahy,” said Tillis.  “This bill will promote the continued and increased participation of independent inventors, military veterans, women, and people of color in the patent system. If the United States is going to continue to be the world’s leading innovation economy in the twenty-first century, then we have to make sure that our best and brightest have access to the patent system. This bill builds on all the work I’ve done with Senator Leahy and Senator Hirono to increase diversity and inclusion in the patent system, and I look forward to seeing it enacted into law.”

The senators also introduced the Pride in Patent Ownership Act, legislation that will ensure that the public has access to information about the true owner of a patent.  Currently, simply to uncover the identity of a patent’s owner, parties have to engage in costly, time-consuming litigation.  This disadvantages small businesses that may simply want to contact a patent owner about getting a license but have no way to know who to contact.  Furthermore, while it is known that more than half of U.S. patents are issued to foreign inventors, there is no way to know how many patents are later sold to foreign entities, preventing Americans from even knowing how we are competing globally in innovation.  This bill requires patent owners to disclose their identity with the Patent Office when a patent issues and whenever it changes hands so that the public can easily look up a patent’s owner and the owner’s ultimate parent entity.

Leahy said:  “One of the fundamental underpinnings of the patent system is transparency.  In exchange for the exclusive rights over an invention granted by a patent, the public has a right to know who owns the rights to particular inventions.  We are working to ensure a fair innovation system for small businesses, non-profits, and independent entrepreneurs who have a right to know, without expensive litigation, who has the exclusive patent rights over a particular invention.”

Tillis said:  “The public has a right to know who is a patent’s true owner. Patents provide a limited term monopoly against the public, and it’s in the public’s interest and benefit to know who owns that monopoly. I’m a strong supporter of patent rights, but those rights have to be balanced against the public’s interest. This commonsense bill will achieve that goal and I look forward to working towards its passage this Congress.”

The full text of the Unleashing American Innovators Act can be found here.  The full text of the Pride in Patent Ownership Act can be found here

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