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Bill would weaken patent system

The University of New Mexico recently joined more than 145 U.S. research universities and 250 businesses and organizations in sending letters of concern to the U.S. House and Senate judiciary committees and the New Mexico congressional delegation regarding pending legislation, Innovation Act HR 9, before the House Judiciary Committee.

The pending legislation to address patent litigation abuses, which is already being largely addressed by the 2012 America Invents Act, is so broadly drawn that it would further weaken the nation’s patent system and hinder the flow of new technologies from university research to the private sector.

The board of directors of STC.UNM, the University of New Mexico’s technology-transfer and economic-development organization, is a diverse group of individuals comprised of researchers, inventors, academics, administrators, government leaders, business executives, entrepreneurs, investors, lawyers and community leaders, with local, state, national and international ties. We are charged with guiding STC in its mission to support the University of New Mexico and its partners as the source for technology commercialization and economic development for our region and the state of New Mexico.

We are writing to express our collective concern for the continued vitality of New Mexico’s growing innovation ecosystem and the jobs of the skilled and dedicated employees it engages.

Our recently established Innovate ABQ, a collaborative initiative anchored to our university and structured to stimulate the commercialization of university technologies through the creation and maturing of new and established small companies, is poised to recharge New Mexico’s economy and transform it into an innovation economy.

We respect and appreciate recent congressional efforts to strengthen our patent system. The recently enacted American Invents Act led to substantial patent-application and post-grant validation efficiencies while curbing abusive litigation.

We strongly support targeted initiatives to prosecute predatory troll demand-letter activity. But, we respectfully oppose adding further comprehensive revisions to patent law we believe will significantly weaken the ability of inventors, universities and small companies to protect and enforce their patents and, thus, impede our efforts to strengthen our state’s economy.

Two years ago the House passed the “Innovation Act” (HR 3309). Had it become law it would have drastically harmed our state’s efforts to improve our economy by deterring the private investment needed to commercialize the many technologies coming from our research institutions. New companies would not have been created and established small companies would not have grown, eliminating critical present and future well-paying jobs.

Since that House vote two years ago, major changes in the courts, the Judicial Conference, the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office have effectively addressed its stated concerns. Frivolous patent assertion lawsuits have been substantially reduced.

Patent litigation’s continually changing legal landscape calls for a carefully crafted, narrow, and targeted response to those who abuse the patent litigation system rather than comprehensive revisions to our entire patent litigation process.

We support consumer protection initiatives aimed at abusive “troll” demand letters. We strongly oppose, however, further comprehensive changes that would harm legitimate patent holders – such as universities and the new and small companies partnering with them – who would be unable to defend and license their patents.

When you are unable to do these things, you cannot create the beneficial innovations and jobs that are the foundation of our state and federal economies and contribute to the well-being of our citizens.

We respectfully urge the House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary and the members of the New Mexico congressional delegation to cautiously consider before adding any more comprehensive adjustments to patent law, especially while our sensitive innovation ecosystem is still absorbing and adapting to recently enacted revisions in patent acquisition and enforcement.

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