Fact Check: PTAB Reform Would Benefit, Not Harm, Small Inventors

Claim: In a letter published August 8, Public Citizen, along with several other advocacy organizations, claimed that reforming the PTAB would hamper innovation and disproportionately hurt small inventors.

Correction: As C4IP recently addressed, the opposite is true — proposed reforms aim to address flaws in existing PTAB procedures to more appropriately balance equities between innovators and those who want to copy their products. Currently, large, established firms use PTAB proceedings to challenge smaller competitors’ patents, leveraging their enormous wealth to run up costs for these start-ups and take their innovative products for free. The data speaks for itself: Nearly all of the top 20 PTAB petitioners from 2012 to 2022 were Big Tech companies. Apple alone filed 904 petitions, followed by Samsung with 898.

Moreover, over the past decade, industry giants have repeatedly weaponized PTAB proceedings — or the threat of them — against small inventors who lack the resources to defend themselves. Shortcomings in the PTAB process and existing law make this abuse an easy strategy. For instance, large firms or groups of firms, who would not be able to sue in federal court, can bring multiple PTAB proceedings against a single patent holder. Similarly, corporations can file multiple PTAB challenges against the same patent — even when the complaints could have been combined into one petition — subjecting the patent holder to maximum cost and administrative burden.

These and other abusive practices highlight the need for PTAB reform. Bipartisan legislation, like the Promoting and Respecting Economically Vital American Innovation Leadership Act (PREVAIL), would bring fairness and transparency to PTAB proceedings while restoring confidence in the value of patents for good faith innovators. The PREVAIL Act includes provisions that would require PTAB petitioners to have standing similar to those seeking access to courts, while prohibiting them from filing repeat petitions against the same patent. The bill would also require patent challengers to litigate their concerns either before the PTAB or in court — but not in both venues at once. These changes aim to eliminate duplicative proceedings, conserve judicial resources, and ensure fair treatment for patent holders.

The claim that PTAB reforms threaten American innovation is contradicted by the facts.

Bottom Line: This claim is false.

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