George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School

It’s Time to Say “No” to Junk Science in the Patent Policy Debates

Last March, forty economists and law professors submitted a letter to Congress expressing “deep concerns with the many flawed, unreliable, or incomplete studies about the American patent system that have been provided to members of Congress.”  These concerns were confirmed again last week when Unified Patents released a report on patent litigation with the same kind of “highly exaggerated claims regarding patent trolls” that the professors were concerned about.

The Unified Patents report is another publication in a long line of “studies” that use absurdly expansive definitions of non-practicing entities (NPEs) or “patent trolls” to produce dramatic-sounding, inflated results. In this case, Unified Patents defines an NPE as a “Company which derives the majority of its total revenue from Patent Licensing activities.” Similar to past reports that have been repeatedly and consistently critiqued for being deeply flawed in both substance and methodology, this definition includes many individual inventors, universities, startups, small businesses, biotech companies, and countless other laudable innovators who are key drivers of the innovation economy in the U.S. It even includes venerable American inventors like Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and Charles Goodyear, among many others. These are the people and companies Unified Patents is condemning as “patent trolls” and whom it is lobbying Congress to punish with patent legislation that would weaken their ability to obtain and to protect their innovation.

In sum, the core definition in Unified Patent’s report is so broad that it renders the results of its study completely uninteresting, unremarkable, and predictable – it’s like saying that 90% of people who sue over an auto accident own cars. Unfortunately, this report is not being touted so innocuously in D.C. at a moment when Congress is finally waking up to the realization that proposed bills like H.R. 9 (the so-called “Innovation Act”) will do more harm to the innovation economy than good.

At this late date, another junk science report hardly deserves yet another detailed analysis and critique. They didn’t care to heed previous critiques, so why expect that the proponents of this report would act with any more integrity now or in the future? In short, it is long past the time to simply say “no” to junk science reports like this.