On June 21, 2017, U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced the STRONGER Patents Act of 2017 with the goal of strengthening the U.S. patent system by making it easier and cheaper for patent holders to enforce their patents. STRONGER (Support Technology and Research for Our Nations Growth and Economic Resilience) is based on the STRONG Patents Act of 2015, previously introduced by Senator Coons, which intended to increase efficiency and fairness of post-issuance proceedings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB).

This legislation follows the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranking the strength of the U.S. patent system tenth worldwide, where it previously had ranked first. This slide is disquieting because patent-intensive industries typically include high-paying jobs, start-ups with patents are more likely to secure venture capital, and the U.S has a $85 billion trade surplus in licensing of intellectual property (IP) rights.

One way the bill focuses on ensuring that administrative reviews at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are balanced and efficient is by limiting repetitive challenges against inventors. Petitioners can challenge a patent only once, unless later charged with infringement of additional claims. If in an inter partes review, then a petitioner cannot bring the same challenges in district court. Moreover, the bill clarifies that an entity making financial contributions to a challenge must be a real party in interest and is stopped from future challenges.

In addition, STRONGER provides a presumption that patent owners are entitled to injunctive relief to encourage infringers to negotiate fair licenses, thereby keeping the issue out of court. By permitting preliminary injunctions while cases are pending, and granting permanent relief to protect a patent owner from ongoing infringement, the bill seeks to re-establish that patents are like other tangible property rights by protecting patent owners against infringement during and after litigation.

Further, the bill grants the USPTO sole access to the patent application fees it collects, establishing a revolving fund with the U.S. Treasury, thus ending fee diversion.

The STRONGER Act also provides an “expedited” examination procedure instead of amending claims before the PTAB; if claim amendments are pursued in front of the PTAB, the inventor may be entitled to the amended claim.

For more information or if you have questions, please contact one of our MVS IP attorneys or call us at (515) 288-3667.

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