The House Committee on Small Business recently invited several prominent academic and industry experts to testify at a hearing centered on recent reforms to the U.S. patent system. While panelists highlighted several significant successes, discussion also touched upon potential hurdles to continued support for small-business interests within the innovation economy.
"Certainly, patent fee reform is helpful to our small business, as is the 'first to file' and 'provisional patent' concepts that makes the decision to file a patent clearer and easier," Indiana-based business owner Mark Grady testified. "We remain optimistic that the [America Invents] Act, with some refinements, will yield faster results for higher quality patents without harming small businesses."
Georgetown University law professor John Thomas was similarly effusive in his praise for recent legislative reforms, but he also urged Congress to spare the Patent and Trademark Office from looming federal budget cuts. Thomas insisted that, by constricting some of the agency's primary revenue streams through sequestration measures, policymakers could effectively force USPTO officials to make difficult decisions that may have "significant, deleterious" effects on the small business community and even reverse recent progress.
With several panelists citing the Small Business Administration finding that small businesses file 16 times more patents per employee than their larger counterparts, those in attendance are hoping Congressional leaders will heed their words of caution.