Much of the debate over patent reform centers on how to make patent defense easier and less onerous for defendants without undermining legitimate patent claimants. The solution must not unfairly classify certain patent holders, such as universities, as trolls simply because they hold patents without manufacturing goods.
A careful balance of interests is achievable, as demonstrated by the cooperation of Republicans and Democrats such as Sens. John Cornyn and Charles Schumer, in addition to White House support and federal judicial action promoting stronger patents and more definite infringement standards.
Properly enforced, sound patent policy protects individual innovators and the overall economy. It gives businesses incentives to create, and it provides consumers with more choices and better value as vibrant competition keeps prices in check. But the potential for financial spoils can motivate individuals, corporations, and even foreign governments to use their substantial resources and regulatory clout to levy baseless or frivolous claims against would-be competitors. The economic consequences of these actions can be catastrophic for small businesses and inflict significant damage on economies of all sizes.
To be sure, the intricacies of patent and intellectual property policy defy a one-size-fits-all solution. But in the courts and the states, incremental progress is being made. This can spark action at the federal level, where there is substantial bipartisan interest in addressing patent abuse. Patent reform could be one of the first success stories of the new term.