Dear House Leadership:
On behalf of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), I urge you to seek prompt passage of H.R. 1561, the United States Patent and Trademark Fee Modernization Act of 2003. This legislation would assist in enhancing patent quality and services by preventing diversion of these fees to other government programs and providing the funds necessary for Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) operations. BIO represents more than 1,000 biotechnology companies, academic institutions and state biotechnology centers in all 50 states. Our members are involved in the research and development of healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.
Patents spur the discovery and development of new medicines and diagnostics, agricultural products, and other breakthrough technologies that are the hallmark of biotechnology. The biotechnology industry has produced more than 160 biotech drugs and vaccines that have helped more than 325 million people worldwide. None of these successes would have been possible without strong, predictable intellectual property protection.
Our industry has made great strides but there is more that can be done. In fact, the vast majority of our members are small start-up companies that have yet to bring a product to market, but have another 350 biotech medicines in their pipeline. For these companies, patents are their sole assets, making the role of the PTO - as the agency responsible for granting patents- critical to the biotechnology industry.
Biotech companies own and market ideas: for example, the discovery of a potential point of intervention in a disease process or the identification of a gene that might affect how that disease progresses. Biotechnology product development can take decades and hundreds of millions of dollars to achieve. The ability of biotechnology companies to raise funding from the capital markets is linked directly to the availability, strength and security of their intellectual property rights. Without quality patents, our companies simply cannot raise funds to conduct their research and get their products on the market.
The PTO's 21st Century Strategic Plan recognizes the importance of patents and is aggressive in its efforts to improve PTO quality and services. However, this effort cannot be undertaken without adequate funding. H.R. 1561 would provide the PTO with the resources to implement many elements of the strategic plan. It would provide funds through user fees and ensure that these fees stay with the PTO. As you know, the PTO is a fully user-fee-funded agency whose income in the past has been siphoned off for non-PTO programs. The biotechnology industry finds this practice troubling, and we ask for your personal involvement to ensure that this practice is ceases.
To ensure that the biotechnology industry can fulfill its promise, we urge you to schedule H.R. 1561 for a vote and resist any effort to remove the language that will protect the agency against fee diversion. If you have any questions, or need additional information, please contact Jennifer Berzok, Director of Federal Government Relations at (202) 962-6667.
Carl B. Feldbaum
Biotechnology Industry Organization