Fiorina: ‘Don’t Boil The Oceans!’

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Peter Fricke Contributor
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Carly Fiorina excoriated a Republican patent reform proposal in a speech to inventors on Wednesday, comparing it to Obamacare and Dodd-Frank.

Fiorina gave the keynote address at the Inventing America conference, at which representatives from universities, companies and non-profit foundations came together to discuss the current state of intellectual property rights in America.

A running theme throughout the conference was the attendees’ animated opposition to the Innovation Act (H.R. 9), a bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte that is intended to discourage abusive patent litigation, known as patent trolling. (RELATED: Do Courts Need Congress to Assist in Fight Against Patent Trolls?)

According to a statement from the event’s organizers, “[broad] patent legislation, such as H.R. 9 as introduced, that weakens the legitimate enforcement rights of all patent holders will harm our innovation economy, and is unnecessary in light of recent developments in the federal judiciary and executive branch.”

Fiorina took an even more provocative stance, calling the bill a classic example of big government overreach, and claiming that, “if the Innovation Act were law at the time, Thomas Edison would be considered a patent troll.”

IP protections are enshrined in the Constitution, she argued, because “the founders knew everyone has God-given gifts,” and also understood that in order for individuals to maximize their potential, they must “own the product of their labor.”

“This is the country where nearly everything worth inventing was invented,” she explained, and “it happened here because innovators knew they could benefit from their efforts.”

Fiorina went on to assert that innovation flourishes best in an environment with the fewest possible constraints, and warned that overly complex efforts to protect patent rights risk creating bigger problems than they solve. (RELATED: Study: Dodd-Frank Crushes Small Banks)

“Crony capitalism is alive and well,” she noted, adding, “Elizabeth Warren is right about that, but wrong in saying that big government is the solution; big government and big business only ever support each other.”

Examples of this abound in recent history, Fiorina said. Obamacare, for instance, “is longer than a Harry Potter novel, and not nearly as interesting,” but has largely failed to solve the problems it was designed to address. Similarly, rather than ending the concept of “too big to fail,” the Dodd-Frank Act made big banks even stronger.

“Before we boil the oceans trying to solve problems that perhaps don’t need legislative solutions,” she suggested, we should have the humility to accept that “the founders had it right.”

One alternative to the Innovation Act that has generated much greater support from innovators is the STRONG Patents Act, introduced on Tuesday by Democratic Sen. Chris Coons. (RELATED: Patent Reform Splitting Republicans, Business Community)

Whereas Goodlatte’s bill seeks to prevent patent trolling by making it more difficult to file infringement claims, Coons’ proposal targets the specific mechanisms by which patent trolls abuse the system, such as spamming patent holders with demand letters claiming infringement.

Adam Mossoff, a law professor at George Mason University, said in a statement that, “The STRONG Patents Act is the perfect example of what smart patent legislation looks like,” explaining that, “instead of weakening the property rights of all inventors, it takes a balanced and targeted approach, addressing issues of legitimate concern in our patent system.”

“More importantly, though,” he added, “it protects inventors, startups, and small businesses,” and in so doing, “promotes healthy and thriving economic growth.” (RELATED: Intra-Conservative Debate Over Patent Reform Heats Up)

Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of the National Venture Capital Association, likewise expressed support for the bill, saying, “I commend Senator Coons and his colleagues for introducing legislation that will bring appropriate reforms to our patent system.”

“The venture community is a strong advocate for patent reform,” he asserted, “and believes steps should be taken to curb abusive behavior while also maintaining a robust patent protection system so that small startup entrepreneurs can defend themselves and their patent rights.”

William J. Merritt, CEO of InterDigital, a mobile technology R&D company, said the research community is also “grateful to Senator Coons for working to keep America’s patent laws strong,” stating that, “Our collective aim should be to ensure America’s patent system continues to be a beacon to the world and the foundation of our innovation economy.”

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