Guest Post by Eric Huber
As innovators, you’ve likely heard about a new bill the Senate is considering aimed at fighting against patent trolls. If you’re not familiar with what a patent troll is, this is a common term for companies who purchase patents with no plans to produce actual products. Instead, they purchase them with the goal of gaining license fees and royalties from other companies. The effort to end this problem at its root is a noble one, but the issue with this particular bill is that it may have adverse consequences for true inventors — especially independent inventors like us.
Edison Nation’s CEO, Louis Foreman, wanted to make sure the Senate took time to hear from the inventors who may be affected, and I had the pleasure of being invited as one of those inventors, along with Christopher Hawker (owner of Trident Designs and a friend of EN). What an experience it was being part of this inventor coalition with Louis!
We spent April 2 and 3 in Washington, DC and met with the staff of about 25 Senators over the two days. Our objective was to both put a face on those millions of inventor/innovators and to “educate” them on the unintended consequences of components of the pending patent legislation.
Louis Foreman and a couple of us heading to Senator Reid’s office in the Capitol
In addition, our goal was to slow down the turbo pace the legislation is moving through the Senate after passing the House in only 5 weeks. We hope for at least a delay that would afford more time for all affected parties to coalesce and be heard. The issues in the legislation that are of concern include…
- Fee Shifting (loser pays other’s costs)
- Customer Stay (limiting which infringers can be targeted)
- Demand Letters (regulating demand letters of infringers)
- Post Grant review Estoppel change (leading to ability of infringers to prolong the legal process)
- …and others that are well articulated in a variety of letters and position papers such as this one and this one.
Louis hosted a panel discussion luncheon where we, again, wanted to put a face to the inventor community and bring attention to how this legislation, in its current form, will weaken intellectual property rights and curb innovation.
Me with Warren Tuttle (President of UIA) at our panel discussion luncheon
In attendance at the luncheon was the Congressman from California, Dana Rohrabacher. He has been a huge champion of a strong patent system. He had a lot of passion (and frustration) for what is being pushed through. Upon his leaving he invited all of us out to dinner.
At the dinner with my congressman Dana Rohrabacher
The inventors, Louis and Charlie Sauer were joined by the senior Republican congressman from California and his press secretary; a sophomore Republican congressman from Alabama and his wife; and a senior Democrat congresswoman from Ohio. At this dinner we discussed the issues and used the opportunity to discuss ways of moving forward. At the end of the night, Congressman Rohrabacher invited us to his office the following morning.
Invention and politics at the local Chinese food restaurant
Thursday morning, we all met at the Congressman’s office to talk more about the subject. In addition, we chatted about his time as a Reagan speech writer, his time with the Afghan freedom fighters and surfing.
As a Californian, he is my Representative and lives near me, so I invited him to my garage workshop and “man cave”… he accepted.
In addition to all the meetings and events, Chris and I were interviewed by the media. We were approached by a writer with Bloomberg’s Washington Bureau who has been on the patent beat for 13 years. She wanted to chat with us for background on the patent legislation and to better understand the effects of this legislation from our perspective. It was a very interesting and frank 2-hour conversation.
As you can see, it was definitely an exciting and eventful two days that we hope will prove to be beneficial. If you’d like to get involved or stay informed about this legislation, visit this forum thread I’ve created to find out what you can do!