Patent trolls vs. American innovation and greatness

As the leaders of two organizations representing the world’s most innovative technology companies and their CEOs, we know our nation is at the precipice of an emerging renaissance, fueled by new ideas, which have the potential to be as impactful as a new Industrial Revolution. But as long as patent trolls continue to viciously suck the lifeblood from innovators and businesses, large and small, we put our 21st century economy and our ability to create jobs at grave risk. Congress, particularly the Senate, must immediately take action on patent reform legislation to reverse this.

Patent trolls victimize American businesses by filing frivolous lawsuits alleging infringement of poorly-written patents. These fabricated accusations force business owners to spend millions in attorneys’ fees to deal with the litigation. The patent trolls’ ultimate goal is to extract settlement money from these businesses by presenting them with a horrific dilemma: pay up now or watch your business crumble.

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No longer content with suing the innovative technology companies that invent ways to improve our daily lives, each year patent trolls set their sights on additional targets. They are increasingly picking the pockets of neighborhood grocery stores, local restaurants, and credit unions. A recent study found that patent trolls siphon approximately $30 billion out of our economy every year. This is a tax on innovation
and a drain on our economy.

This practice is nothing short of a shakedown, perpetrated by con artists, against American businesses and consumers. Yet it is legal. (In fact, the deck is stacked in favor of the trolls.)

As our economy continues to recover, American businesses can put to better use the $30 billion currently wasted on frivolous patent suits, and invest in things that improve the experiences and lives of their customers such as employee pay and training, improved services, or research and development.

The House of Representatives has already passed the Innovation Act with strong bipartisan support, and now it’s up to the Senate to curb these job-killing abuses by passing effective patent reform legislation. Make no mistake, commonsense changes that limit abuse, like fee shifting, discovery reforms, and heightened pleading standards – which would require patent trolls to do some homework before they
file a lawsuit and ensure that when they sue, the business owner has a clear idea of the allegations - must be addressed.

If Congress takes action now, money will flow back into our economy, fueling investments in innovations that create and sustain jobs. And that innovation horizon, filled with limitless potential and the promise of American greatness, will once again be within our reach.

Dean C. Garfield, CEO, Information Technology Industry Council and Carl Guardino, CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group

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