Fact Check: The Patent Eligibility Restoration Act Would Promote Medical Innovation

Claim: During a January 23 Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property hearing, Richard Blaylock — on behalf of Invitae Corporation — claimed that “PERA as introduced would stifle innovation and harm patient care in the fields of diagnostic genetic testing and precision medicine.”

Correction: The Patent Eligibility Restoration Act (PERA) is an essential reform to foster continued innovation and American leadership in high-tech industries like biotechnology. Over the past decade, a series of Supreme Court decisions have deemed broad categories of innovation, such as artificial intelligence and medicines that make use of human genes, ineligible for patent protection.

As a result, investor confidence in these inventions has plummeted. One survey of investors found that patent eligibility was an “important” factor in their decision-making and that “reduced eligibility has had a negative impact in every industry, but particularly in the biotechnology, medical device, and pharmaceutical industries.” Additionally, reduced patent protection erodes incentives for companies to enter into partnerships and encourages seeking trade secret protection over patent protection — which means that the public will not have the benefit of the disclosures that come with patents.

Opponents of the Patent Eligibility Restoration Act have asserted that the legislation would overstep important and longstanding exemptions to patent eligibility, such as abstract ideas, natural processes, and unmodified human genes. This is false. The text of the bill enumerates the conditions under which an invention may not be patented, which include when natural materials and genes have not been “altered by human activity.” In reality, the legislation would serve only to clarify the specific bounds of patent eligibility with respect to emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, that were not considered when existing laws were written.

The Patent Eligibility Restoration Act would incentivize innovation and investment in the technologies of the future. This is an essential intervention given that the United States is rapidly ceding ground to China in advanced fields such as AI and biotech. Moreover, the simplicity of the changes that would be made by the legislation has been understated. Criticisms of PERA seem to stem from misunderstanding of its effects, despite the fact that the bill’s text is clear and concise. Far from being a controversial and radical change, PERA is a common-sense reform that every American innovator should feel comfortable supporting.

Bottom Line: This claim is false.

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