Senators reintroduce legislation to help small businesses access patent protections

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Jim Risch (R-ID) announced that they have reintroduced the Small Business Innovation Protection Act, bipartisan legislation to help small businesses protect their intellectual property by improving education on obtaining and protecting patents.

The bill will require the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to work together to leverage existing outreach programs in order to better educate more small businesses on domestic and international patents. Peters, Risch and then-Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduced this legislation in the 114th Congress, where it passed the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

“Small businesses are the engines of economic growth in our communities. It is critical that small businesses are equipped with the tools and knowledge to protect their intellectual property so they can focus on what they do best – creating jobs and serving customers,” said Senator Peters. “I’m pleased to reintroduce this bipartisan bill, which will boost collaboration between the SBA and USPTO in developing best practices to support small businesses as they look to sell their product in the national and international marketplace.”

“Thousands of small businesses rely on our patent system to protect the core of their business and it is imperative that small inventors continue to have faith in that system,” said Senator Risch. “This legislation will make it easier to train and equip America’s small business owners with the resources and information necessary to obtain and protect their patents.”

America’s intellectual property-intensive industries employ nearly 19 million workers at all education and skill levels and represent forty percent of the country’s economic growth. The value of U.S. intellectual property is estimated at over $5 trillion, and sixty percent of U.S. exports come from intellectual property-intensive industries. Patent protection helps innovators recoup the cost of research and development, capitalize on their inventions, create jobs, and grow the economy. In 2012, Detroit became home to the first-ever satellite office for the United States Patent and Trademark outside of Washington, DC.

Obtaining a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) protects against infringement in the U.S. However, if a small business does not register in a foreign market, such as China, it has no protection there. Patent protection is necessary to ensure the ability to enforce a businesses’ rights both at home and abroad. Additionally, patents help defend American inventors against lawsuits. The Small Business Innovation Protection Act will help ensure small businesses are aware of the need and mechanisms available to accurately and effectively pursue an international patent.

The Small Business Innovation Protection Act will require the SBA and USPTO to leverage existing intellectual property education and training programs in order to reach more small businesses. Specifically, the bill would:

• Require the SBA and USPTO to develop partnerships in order to develop high quality training relating to domestic and international patent protection by leveraging existing training materials developed for small business and inventor education, which may be conducted in person or online.
• Require the SBA and USPTO to enter partnerships in order to increase the effectiveness of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) by providing training that addresses small business concerns related to domestic and international intellectual property protections which may be conducted in person or online.

In 2015, Peters introduced an amendment to the fiscal year 2016 budget that would initiate a process to provide the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) greater access to the fees it receives in order to reduce the patent application backlog. As of February 2017, the USPTO had a backlog of more than 547,000 patent applications with an average review time of more than two years before applications were granted patent protection.

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