Although the health care and technology industries play important roles in modern society, businesses behind them seldom work hand in hand. Major companies from both industrial groups, however, have teamed up to protect a common interest that is threatened by looming changes.
U.S. companies from both industrial groups that include the likes of Apple, General Electric, DuPont, IBM, Ford, Microsoft and Pfizer have joined forces to form a lobbying group that aims to fight back against proposed changes they claim could threaten intellectual properties and discourage innovations.
The Partnership for American Innovation (PAI), as the lobby group is called, is concerned about the implications of the Innovation Act of 2013, which seeks to put an end to patent assertion entities (PAEs).
Also known as patent trolls, PAEs are companies that neither produce nor supply products and services but instead buy patents from businesses that have gone bankrupt. PAEs earn money by suing for patent infringement and collecting license fees from businesses that use those patents.
The PAI is concerned that stopping PAEs could hurt innovative companies. The group is particularly concerned with plans that would make software and biotechnology unpatentable.
"As director of the USPTO, I saw firsthand the significant role the patent system plays in encouraging inventors, promoting investment in innovation, and creating jobs," said David Kappos, senior adviser for the PAI and former director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). "Now is not the time to gamble with America's innovation engine -- once patent protections are eliminated, they cannot be restored."
The proposed legislation also includes a so-called loser pays provision that would require the losing party to cover the winners' legal bills. It also requires PAEs to provide specific infringement details when filing a lawsuit.
Supporters of the bill, however, said that it could end the abusive practices of patent trolls. "Patent suits are extremely expensive," said John Boswell, chief legal officer of software maker SAS. "Companies all across North Carolina, large and small, are being abused by patent trolls. We see claims being made against coffee shops, retailers. Every bank that has an ATM machine is being sued."