Fact Check: There Is No Patent Quality Crisis

Claim: Former Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) alleged that “our innovation economy is groaning under the weight of…thousands of meritless legal actions” brought forth by “patent trolls [wielding] low-quality patents.” Rep. Goodlatte claimed that the country needs significant reforms to stop these “patent trolls” from “generating waste and inefficiencies” and to “make the patent system work again for the folks it’s supposed to support.”

Correction: America’s patent system is functioning exactly as originally intended — and it has made America an innovation powerhouse. But detractors have decided to target non-practicing entities (NPEs), who license, instead of manufacture, their inventions — much like Thomas Edison did, and virtually every university does today. If you attended college, your alma mater is a NPE. Yet, they incorrectly claim NPEs are just “patent trolls” who routinely buy up low-quality patents and sue companies for infringement to the detriment of the system.

In fact, NPE lawsuit and patent litigation rates in the United States remain generally consistent with historical levels, the data does not indicate a crisis of the system. And NPEs are entitled to codified IP protections against infringement just like everyone else. The Constitution democratized invention in the United States, and expressly did not include a manufacturing requirement in order to obtain a patent. This is precisely what enables individuals of any economic background to patent their inventions — including those who may lack manufacturing capabilities and especially underrepresented minorities. Their patents drive the cutting-edge discoveries that Rep. Goodlatte noted as instrumental in”[moving] our country forward.”

Bottom Line: This claim is false and especially harmful to independent inventors and universities everywhere as well as those with less financial means who seek to license their inventions.

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