THE BLOG
05/23/2011 05:39 pm ET | Updated Jul 23, 2011

House Judiciary Committee Sides With Corporations in Patent Law

In the battle between the American public and lying corporations, Congress seems poised to side with the fat cats rather than you and me. Currently, when a company lies about its products being patented, consumers can sue them and share any fine the court imposes against the company for the lying with the government. This is called a qui tam suit, because the government doesn't have the time and man power to police the marketplace for false patent statements, so it empowers private citizens to do so themselves.

But, a small part of the currently pending patent reform bill, called ironically the "America Invents Act", that has been voted out of the Senate and the House Judiciary Committee, includes provisions that would eliminate this right of consumers to go after lying corporations. This is the same proposal lying corporations lobbied for last year when I commented,

[T]here is no rational explanation ... to overturn a law that has been part of our country for over 150 years and whose only impact will be to help rid our marketplace of intentionally deceptive false statements. To be sure, deceptive commercial practices have been forbidden since the time Leviticus 25:14 was written (see, Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Bava Metzia, 60a), so there is no "moral" reason to protect patent liars, especially when they made their lies with the intent to deceive the public.

The currently proposed evisceration of the anti-false marking law is a gift to non-innovative companies that gives them carte blanche to falsify tout their products as new and technologically superior when they have no right to do so. This is anti-competitive, anti-consumer and will weaken the U.S. patent system to the detriment of all because legitimate inventors won't be able to distinguish themselves in the marketplace.

Not only does the bill eliminate the ability of consumers to pursue claims against lying corporations, it does so retroactively, so as to eliminate the suits that are already currently underway. It, therefore, not only changes the rules prohibiting companies from making false statements, it also pardons all past acts of intentional lying to the American public. This is grotesque and indefensible on any legal, ethical or moral basis. Such behavior by Congress only fuels those who believe Congress is corrupt, which includes me, and according to the most recent poll, more than two-thirds of all Americans.

In an attempt to actually have the issue discussed on the merits, a group of consumer advocacy organizations, including Public Citizen, the National Consumers League and the Public Patent Foundation, wrote to the House expressing our concerns over the elimination of the consumer right of action against companies that lie about their products being patented. While at least some members of the House, including Rep Conyers, listened, the rest simply approved the bill without thought or scrutiny. To them, it was another day, another dollar, I guess. Score one (more) for the lying corporations.