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4 March 2015

Universities stand against patent changes

Pending legislation to address patent litigation abuses “broadly drawn” and would weaken tech transfer, say 144 universities.

Author: Gregg Bayes-Brown, editor

A group of 144 universities have said that proposed changes to the US patent system would hamper tech transfer in the country.

In a letter to the US House and Senate Judiciary Committees, the group said that legislation drafted to address patent trolling is too broadly drawn and would stand in the way of transferring technology from universities to the private sector.

At the core of the universities complaint is the proposal of fee-shifting in the case of patent cases. Similar to the English Rule, used in every Western country apart from the United States, the loser in patent cases would pick up the legal costs of the winner.

The group, which include Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania University, and Yale, said that the fee-shifting wold lead to increased financial risk for the university, and would “discourage universities and other patent holders lacking extensive litigation resources from legitimately defending their patents.”

The letter also said that the increased risk would deter potential licensees from coming forward, and would put venture capitalists off investing in university patents, thereby reducing the number of discoveries which reached the market place.

The universities also said that the proposed involuntary joinder aspect of the legislation would magnify the damage to tech transfer operations, which the group claim “could force universities and inventors into paying damages for actions of third parties over which they had no control.”

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