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Public Statements

Patent Reform Act of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

PATENT REFORM ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - September 07, 2007)


Mr. SMITH of Texas. Madam Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I strongly endorse H.R. 1908, the Patent Reform Act of 2007, and I urge my colleagues to support American inventors, American businesses, and the American people by voting for this bill today.

Last year we laid a substantial foundation for patent reform. It was a good start, but we need to finish the job now. The Patent Reform Act is the most significant and comprehensive update to patent law since the 1952 act was enacted. The Judiciary Committee has undertaken such an initiative because changes to the patent system are necessary to bolster the U.S. economy and improve the quality of living for all Americans.

There are two major reasons the committee wrote the bill: first, too many patents of questionable integrity have been approved. Second, holders of these weak patents discovered a novel way to make money, not by commercializing the patents but by suing manufacturing companies whose operations might incorporate the patents. This combination of weak patents and ``seat-of-the-patents'' litigation has hurt the economy.

Most companies don't want to risk shutting down their operations in response to a questionable lawsuit. Nor do they have much faith in a legal system in which juries and even judges become confused by the complexities of patent law. The result: legalized extortion in which companies pay a lot of money to use suspect patents.

The bill will eliminate legal gamesmanship from the current system that rewards lawsuit abuses. It will enhance the quality of patents and increase public confidence in their legal integrity. This will help individuals and companies obtain money for research, commercialize their inventions, expand their businesses, create new jobs, and offer the American people a dazzling array of products and services that continue to make our country the envy of the world.

All businesses, small and large, will benefit. All industries directly or indirectly affected by patents, including finance, automotive, manufacturing, high tech, and pharmaceuticals, will profit.

Given the scope of H.R. 1908, it is impossible to satisfy completely every interested party. But the committee has made many concessions to accommodate many individuals and many businesses.

[Time: 12:30]

The bill has not been rushed through the process. Over the past 3 years, our committee has conducted 10 hearings with more than 40 witnesses representing a broad range of interests and views.

The Patent Reform Act was amended at different stages of the process to address criticisms of the bill. Still, not all interests have endorsed the bill. I think their response is mostly resistance to change, any change.

This bill is not intended to favor the interests of one group over another. It does correct glaring inequities that encourage individuals to be less inventive and more litigious.

Supporters of the bill run the educational, consumer and business spectrum. The Business Software Alliance, the Information Technology Industry Council, the American Association of Universities, the American Bankers Association, the Consumer Federation of America, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, and the Financial Services Roundtable, again, they all endorse this bill.

Article I, section 8, as the chairman mentioned a while ago, of the Constitution empowers Congress, ``to promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.''

The foresight of the founders, in creating an intellectual property system, demonstrates their understanding of how patent rights ultimately benefit the American people. Nor was the value of patents lost when one of our greatest Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, himself a patent owner, Lincoln described the patent system as adding ``the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.''

Few issues are as important to the economic strength of the United States as our ability to create and protect intellectual property. American IP industries account for over half of all U.S. exports, represent 40 percent of the

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country's economic growth, and employ 18 million Americans. A recent study valued U.S. intellectual property at $5 trillion, or about half of the U.S. gross domestic product.

The Patent Reform Act represents a major improvement to our patent system that will benefit Americans for years to come.

Madam Chairman, this bill has been a bipartisan effort. We would not be here now without the steady hand and gentle suggestions made by our chairman, Mr. Conyers.

I also want to acknowledge the indispensable contributions of Congressman HOWARD BERMAN and Congressman HOWARD COBLE, among others. All three of us have been chairmen of the Intellectual Property Subcommittee over the past number of years, and we have worked together on developing this bill. But it is Mr. Berman's good fortune and a testament to his legislative ability that we are on the House floor today, and I congratulate him for that achievement.

Madam Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.


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