GOP Rep: Patent reform ‘could cause more harm than good’

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) is warning that lawmakers could be making it harder for inventors by rushing through legislation to take on “patent trolls.”

Massie, who holds 29 patents himself, said the effort shifts the balance against small inventors and in favor of large companies.

“In an effort to prune every tree, all the intellectual property in the United States, we could cause more harm than good," he said at an event sponsored by Bloomberg.

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Massie was one of just 91 House members to oppose a patent reform bill in December. The Innovation Act, from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), passed with the support of 325 lawmakers.

“It was rushed through,” Massie said, as a “defense mechanism to try and protect the bill.” He said lawmakers had just four hours to file amendments on the legislation.

The focus is now on the Senate, where the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up a bill this week.  

Critics claim that the patent trolls buy up truckloads of weak patents and bring lawsuits against companies to try to extract costly settlements.

But Massie and other critics are worried the legislative effort could end up hurting inventors struggling to protect their ideas.

“It attenuates the value of intellectual property,” he said. “It slows down the rate at which you can assert your patent rights and it does that indiscriminately, whether you have a legitimate patent.”

“Eventually, people will invent less.”

One of the major stumbling blocks in the Senate has been whether to include a “fee-shifting” mechanism that forces losers in a lawsuit to pay the winner’s court fees. The panel has also sparred over how much customers should be protected from patent suits involving products' manufacturers and the possibility of making it easier to take on weak software patents.