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Universities Warn Congress That Pending Patent Legislation Would Harm U.S. Innovation System

February 24, 2015

A group of 145 universities today warned the House and Senate Judiciary Committees that pending legislation to address patent litigation abuses is so broadly drawn that it would weaken the nation’s patent system and hinder the flow of groundbreaking advances from universities to the private sector.

The universities said in a letter to committee leaders that proposed legislation would impede university technology transfer by making it more difficult and expensive for all patent holders, including universities, to defend their patent rights in good faith. The resulting uncertainty and increased financial risk surrounding university patents would discourage potential licensees and venture capitalists from investing in university discoveries, thus disrupting the nation’s innovation ecosystem.    

“As Congress considers legislation related to the U.S. patent system,” they wrote, “American universities and associated technology transfer foundations and organizations stand ready to work with you to address the patent litigation abuses we all agree are a problem. We are deeply concerned, however, that much of the patent legislation currently being discussed in Congress, including the Innovation Act, H.R. 9, goes well beyond what is needed to address the bad actions of a small number of patent holders…”

The universities offered support for patent legislation that would be “targeted, measured, and carefully calibrated to safeguard this nation’s global leadership in innovation.”

They added, “University technology transfer provides a rich return on both public and private funding for basic research in the form of countless innovative products and services that today benefit the public, create jobs, and contribute to U.S. economic competitiveness and global technological leadership…[It] depends on a robust patent system that provides strong protection for inventions, enabling universities to license these patented inventions to private sector enterprises to create socially beneficial products and services.”

The universities expressed hope that as the Judiciary Committees  assess potential changes to patent law, they will consider a number of recent judicial and administrative actions that “are contributing to a significant reduction in patent litigation.”  

Most of the institutions that signed on to the letter are members of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and/or the Association of American Universities.  

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. With a membership of 238 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations, APLU's agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research, and expanding engagement. 

The Association of American Universities (AAU) is an association of 60 U.S. and two Canadian public and private research universities. It focuses on issues such as funding for research, research policy issues, and graduate and undergraduate education. AAU member universities are on the leading edge of innovation, scholarship, and solutions that contribute to the nation's economy, security, and well-being.  AAU’s 60 U.S. universities award nearly one-half of all U.S. doctoral degrees and 55 percent of those in STEM fields.

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