The Time Has Arrived for Patent Reform

Guest Contributor
Guest Contributor March 1, 2011
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Yesterday, the full Senate took up Senator Patrick's Leahy's patent reform bill, which had already received unanimous and bipartisan support out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The floor debate is ongoing, and we certainly hope for a favorable outcome.

Also lending his voice to the debate yesterday, through Eli Lilly's blog LillyPad, is their general patent counsel, Douglas K. Norman. Mr. Norman was kind enough to agree to let us share his words right here on The Catalyst.

As a patent attorney, I don't often get the opportunity to engage online about my work (I get the sense not everyone is as passionate about patent law as me). But with the Senate beginning debate on patent reform, now seems like a great a time to start.

Put simply, our patent system is crippled. Currently, hundreds of thousands of patent applications await review, as the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office is unable to effectively process patent applications due to insufficient funding and resources. And the process has become far too complex. Years ago, a patent application would be 20 to 25 pages and have 10 to 15 claims; now they run hundreds of pages, with hundreds - sometimes thousands - of claims. With such an inefficient process, innovations and inventions that have the potential to change our lives are not reaching the marketplace quickly enough (and sometimes not at all).

Equally important, a strong U.S. patent system is crucial to America's economic competitiveness and our global leadership in medical innovation. It provides American businesses with incentives that drive innovation, create jobs and help to stimulate the economy. This is especially true in the biopharmaceutical research sector, which employs more than 650,000 people and supports more than 3 million jobs.

With so much at stake, I recently testified before the House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet in my role as President of the Intellectual Property Owners Association to encourage Congress to secure proper funding for the U.S. Patent Office. On the Senate side, the Patent Reform Act of 2011, introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy, has already been passed unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and will soon move to the Senate floor for debate. The legislation, supported by a broad coalition of universities, medical colleges, organized labor, health care organizations and businesses would strengthen the patent system while simultaneously protecting patent owners and maintaining incentives for innovation. The bill (S23) would also encourage a positive environment for developing ideas that become life-changing innovations.

At a time when boosting the economy and creating jobs is top of mind in our country, now is the time to act on patent reform. We need a strong patent system to drive innovation, and passing the Patent Reform Act of 2011 simply makes sense.

Conversations and healthy debate about issues facing our industry and the health care system are critical to addressing some of today’s challenges and opportunities. The Catalyst welcomes guest contributors including patients, stakeholders, innovators and others to share their perspectives and point of view. Like in our Conversations series, views represented here may not be those of PhRMA, though they are no less key to a healthy dialogue on issues in health care today. 

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Topics: PhRMA Member Company, Patents, Intellectual Property