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Sens. Peters, Vitter, Risch Introduce Bill to Help Increase Small Business Access to Patent Protections

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), David Vitter (R-LA), and Jim Risch (R-ID), who all serve on the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee, today announced they are introducing new bipartisan legislation to help small businesses protect their intellectual property by improving education on obtaining and protecting patents. The Small Business Innovation Protection Act will require the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to work together to leverage existing outreach programs in order to better educate more small businesses on domestic and international patents. America’s intellectual property-intensive industries employ nearly 19 million workers at all education and skill levels and represent forty percent of the country’s economic growth. The value of U.S. intellectual property is estimated at over $5 trillion, and sixty percent of U.S. exports come from intellectual property-intensive industries. Patent protection helps innovators recoup the cost of research and development, capitalize on their inventions, create jobs, and grow the economy. In 2012, Detroit became home to the first-ever satellite office for the United States Patent and Trademark outside of Washington, DC.

“By helping small businesses tackle the challenges they face in obtaining, maintaining, and enforcing patents, we will help American workers expand their operations and boost exports,” said Senator Peters. “I am proud to introduce the Small Business Innovation Protection Act to ensure U.S. businesses have the knowledge and resources they need to protect their intellectual property and compete in the global marketplace.”

“It’s vitally important to protect our nation’s innovators from those who abuse the current patent system. Theft of intellectual property and abusive practices, from bad actors or so called ‘patent trolls’ both pose a serious threat to many American businesses. Helping small businesses pursue their patent rights is crucial tool for protecting small entities who can then instead be focusing on growing their businesses, driving innovation, and strengthening our economy,” said Senator Vitter, Chairman of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee. “My common-sense reform bill with Senator Peters and Senator Risch will help small business entrepreneurs find the protections they need without overhauling the entire system.”

“Thousands of small businesses rely on our patent system to protect the core of their business and it is imperative that small inventors continue to have faith in that system,” said Senator Risch. “This legislation will equip America’s small business owners with the tools and information necessary to obtain and protect their patents.”

Obtaining a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) protects against infringement in the U.S. However, if a small businesses does not register in a foreign market, such as China, it has no protection there. Patent protection is necessary to ensure the ability to enforce a businesses’ rights both at home and abroad. Additionally, patents help defend American inventors against lawsuits. The Small Business Innovation Protection Act will help ensure small businesses are aware of the need and mechanisms available to accurately and effectively pursue an international patent.

The Small Business Innovation Protection Act will require the SBA and USPTO to leverage existing intellectual property education and training programs in order to reach more small businesses.  Specifically, the bill:

  • Require the SBA and USPTO to develop partnerships in order to develop high quality training relating to domestic and international patent protection by leveraging existing training materials developed for small business and inventor education, which may be conducted in person or online.
  • Require the SBA and USPTO to enter partnerships in order to increase the effectiveness of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) by providing training that addresses small business concerns related to domestic and international intellectual property protections which may be conducted in person or online.

While in the U.S. House in 2011, Peters offered an amendment to the America Invents Act which required the Small Business Administration (SBA) and United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to write a joint report on international patent protection for small businesses. The amendment, which was included in the bill that was signed into law, resulted in a report issued in January of 2012 with recommendations to increase coordination between SBA and USPTO.  

Last year, Peters introduced an amendment to the FY 2016 budget that would initiate a process to provide the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) greater access to the fees it receives in order to reduce the patent application backlog. As of March 2016, the USPTO had a backlog of more than 560,000 patent applications with an average review time of more than two years before applications were granted patent protection. Peters’ amendment would allow the USPTO to hire the additional examiners and administrative patent judges to reduce the backlog.