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225th Anniversary of First U.S. Patent

August 4, 2015
225 years ago last Friday the first U.S. patent was issued to Samuel Hopkins for an improved process for creating potash, America’s first industrial chemical compound.

America’s Founding Fathers recognized Intellectual property as a fundamental right, so much so they enshrined it into our Constitution. The systems for issuing patents have changed over the years, but Congress retains the authority to regulate and change matters of patent law.

Unfortunately, not all changes to patent law have been for the better. For example, in 2011, Congress enacted the America Invents Act which created a system within the United States Patent and Trademark Office called Inter Partes Review (IPR). Regrettably, this new system has been very harmful for industries that depend on patents to raise capital, because the IPR process is fundamentally skewed against patents and patent owners. In fact, it uses a different, lower standard which makes it easier to overturn legitimate patents – leaving us with two very different paths, with different standards. This means a company can defend its patent in court and win – only to be tied-up again with an IPR challenge – in a patent “double-jeopardy.”

Clearly, when Congress created the IPR process, they never intended for it to be a vehicle for killing off valid patents that would otherwise be upheld in district court, but this is exactly what has happened. And now, although proposed patent reform bills are moving through the House and Senate, they fail to sufficiently address the problems with IPR ultimately leading to an attack on medical innovation.

If we fail to correct the IPR system, the ability of this nation’s innovative biopharma industry to continue developing and delivering new cures and treatments for debilitating diseases will be seriously jeopardized. We urge the Senate and House to do patent reform, but to do it right: fix the IPR process to give people around the world a reason to keep hoping for the next big medical breakthrough.

There is a shared spirit of innovation that stretches from Samuel Hopkins to the latest patent recipient. Congress was trusted to protect this fundamental right, let’s hope they honor their duty to innovation and the citizens in our nation.

Read more about how the current IPR system threatens biomedical innovation and new cures and better medicines for patients.