An American inventor is speaking out about a law he says has significantly affected the country’s ability “to lead the world in innovation and stay ahead of our adversaries.”
“We’re a 501(c)(4) [tax-exempt organization], and our mission is to restore to America something that has been actually just totally destroyed by Big Tech,” Randy Landreneau, president of US Inventor, tells The Daily Signal. “And what that is is that if you’re an inventor and you invent something really valuable, and you get a patent on it, you’re supposed to have the legal ability to stop a large entity from just taking it, and that is what our patent system was created for.”
Landreneau has numerous patents and owns Complete Product Development, which is “a product design and prototyping company based in Clearwater, Fla.,” according to his US Inventor biography page.
“That’s what worked so well in America for 200 years, what enabled us to lead the world in innovation and stay ahead of our adversaries, etc.,” Landreneau says. “And Big Tech got a law passed about 10 years ago that really drastically destroyed that. It made it virtually impossible now to stop a large entity from simply taking what you had invented and patented.”
Landreneau was referring to the America Invents Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law in 2011 by then-President Barack Obama, who at the time said the “much-needed reform will speed up the patent process so that innovators and entrepreneurs can turn a new invention into a business as quickly as possible.”
Landreneau joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to further discuss the U.S. patent system and some of the challenges he and other U.S. inventors are facing today.
Listen to the podcast below:
Samantha Aschieris: Joining today’s show is Randy Landreneau. He’s the president of US Inventor. Randy, thanks so much for joining us.
Randy Landreneau: Thank you for having me. Glad to be here.
Aschieris: I am very excited for our conversation today. But first and foremost, can you tell our audience about US Inventor and its mission?
Landreneau: US Inventor is a nonprofit, we’re a 501(c)(4). And our mission is to restore to America something that has been actually just totally destroyed by Big Tech. And what that is is that if you’re an inventor and you invent something really valuable and you get a patent on it, you’re supposed to have the legal ability to stop a large entity from just taking it.
And that is what our patent system was created for. That’s what worked so well in America for 200 years, what enabled us to lead the world in innovation and stay ahead of our adversaries, etc. And Big Tech got a law passed about 10 years ago that really drastically destroyed that. It made it virtually impossible now to stop a large entity from simply taking what you had invented and patented.
Aschieris: That’s very interesting. And for our listeners, they might recall a similar conversation that we had previously on the podcast for “Innovation Race.” You were a part of that. I believe that movie came out back in November. And something that movie looked at was similar to what we’re going to be talking about today and these challenges facing U.S. inventors. Could you speak to more, I know you were just talking about Big Tech, sort of the challenges and what inventors in America are facing today?
Landreneau: Yeah. And think about this. It’s inventors, but it’s also, in a big way, it’s startups. What is it that would compete with Big Tech? It would be a startup with a patented technology that Big Tech, whichever Big Tech entity, that they would be taking part of their market, that entity could not simply take it.
Now, they could out-innovate that small entity. Of course, that’s typically not what happens. The large entities, once they get huge, their time and effort is protecting what they have. It’s not trying to come up with something better that might put their other business out of business. But some guy or girl in a garage, they’re the ones thinking outside of the box. Look, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, when they started, they were those guys and they had a good patent system to help them. Of course, now they’ve become huge and they don’t want to face those startups.
So as an inventor, obviously, the thing that gets created, the technology is created by typically one or maybe two individuals. And so now you have something that didn’t exist before that is very valuable that others really want.
And what a patent does for you is that, one, if you have the legal ability to stop an infringer, a big entity from taking it, then you can do a lot of things. One, you can have a startup, you can attract capital for a startup. Very important. How can someone invest in your startup based on your patent if the patent can be invalidated? Which we’re going to talk about in a minute. And that’s what has happened. And they did it on purpose. They wanted to eliminate future competition.
But what it does, though, it affects any invention in any industry that’s truly valuable because there will be a large player or more than one who actually would like simply to take it.
And I got to tell you, for whatever reason, when corporations get very large, they appear to lose their ethics. And I’m not saying it’s 100%, but maybe they start being run by attorneys who are ethically challenged. Nothing against attorneys, but you guys know what I’m talking about. And we need laws that kind of encourage them to do the right thing and that don’t encourage them to do the wrong thing. And what we have is encouraging the wrong thing.
Aschieris: You just brought up laws and I wanted to ask you what you would like to see in terms of at the congressional level. We’re about two months now into the new Congress. What would you like them to focus on?
Landreneau: So, one of the key things—there are really three key issues. One is this administrative court that was created by a bill called the America Invents Act.
Now, prior to this, all your battles on patent infringement would take place in a real court. So you have real court, you have a jury, you have a lifetime-appointed judge, you have a lot of due process, and it was fair and it wasn’t cheap. But you know what? If you had a good case, you could hire an attorney on contingency. That’s where you don’t have to pay them much, but they share in the winnings if they win. And that worked. It was a very workable system.
Well, what the law created, the America Invents Act in 2011, it created an administrative court with no judge and no jury. Hey, that goes against the Constitution. The Seventh Amendment says you get a jury trial for an issue like this. Somehow it’s weathered the various storms and gotten through the Supreme Court a few times amazingly.
But that administrative court is so unjust and we don’t have time to talk about it here, but numerous examples I could give you of game-changing inventions, some of which many of your viewers have used or absolutely know about where the inventor came out with it, it didn’t exist before, it was a huge hit, and some large entity has stolen it and invalidated the inventor’s patent at that administrative court, which, by the way, invalidates 84% of the patents that it fully reviews—84%.
So there’s the administrative court, it’s called the PTAB, Patent Trial and Appeal Board. We’d like to see that gone because it’s unconstitutional to begin with. Either gone or perhaps the ability for a small entity to opt for a real court instead of being forced into that.
Now, there’s another issue, which is injunctive relief. OK? An injunction is a legal term. That’s where you can stop somebody from doing something. Used to be if you won your case, your patent infringement case, you could stop the infringer. Why fight him if you can’t stop him?
Well, there was a case, it’s referred to as the eBay case, a Supreme Court case where the court decided that it was in the public interest—oh, that’s a word you don’t want to hear, right? “In the public interest”—someone’s property rights are about to be taken when you hear that. In the public interest for the infringer to keep producing the invention because basically they could serve the market better than the startup. Well, wow. So the precedent now is that if you win your case, you have to pass a public interest test to get injunctive relief to stop the infringement.
So if you jump through all the hoops and somehow get to a win, which is almost impossible these days, you can’t stop them and you have a judge telling you what you get, and then how are you going to have the next great American startup? You’re not because they keep the market, you don’t get to take it. And how are you going to get funding? Again, even if your investors know, in the end, you’re not going to be able to stop them, how much can they invest? And that’s, by the way, that is a key, key point.
China has actually strengthened their patent system. They’ve actually copied to some degree our patent system now in the last few years, specifically to attract capital for startups based on Chinese patents in key areas, key future technologies where we have shot ourselves in the foot. Funding that should be going to American startups is going to Chinese startups, and they’re creating the next Silicon Valley. And this is a serious security threat.
So you have that administrative court, it’s all wrong, it needs to be gone. You have injunctive relief. Injunctive relief, we need to have it back. And the third big thing is referred to as the abstract idea.
I don’t know if you can hear behind me, someone is singing very, well, quite loudly. Anyway, a lot happening here.
So it used to be that what was patentable was a pretty wide area. Pretty much anything’s patentable, subject to, is it novel? Is it useful? Is it, there’s a term called nonobvious, right? So if it fits all these other qualities, you could patent it. Well, the Supreme Court came in with, they call this the Alice case. They said, “Well, but you can’t patent an abstract idea.” Well, I don’t think you could patent an abstract idea, but the thing is, they didn’t define that in any way.
And now you have this whole area where attorneys for infringers can really make hay and make these great arguments to judges who may not be so knowledgeable in the area. And about 65% of the time, and this is for typically software-related kind of patents that really deal with some of the most important technologies like quantum computing and artificial intelligence, and they convince judges that, “Oh, yeah, that’s an abstract idea,” and they invalidate the patent.
And those are the same types of patents that in China, you can get a patent that holds, that is defendable, and you can get funding for. And again, it’s another reason why China is going to eat our lunch if we don’t fix it.
So what we do at US Inventor, it’s usinventor.org, we’re working very hard to help get legislation introduced. And [Rep.] Thomas Massie had a great bill last Congress, Thomas Massey of Kentucky. He’s great. He went to MIT.
Aschieris: Also in “Innovation Race.”
Landreneau: Yes, yes. There you go. There you go. Yeah. He went to MIT, he has 29 patents, he had a tech startup based on those patents with funding because of the patents. He’s so good, so knowledgeable, great guy in a lot of areas, of course. But his bill would get rid of all those three things and did more than that even. Kind of ambitious because it does a lot. In Congress, they want to only do a little bit, which is not, in my opinion, the way to go. But we helped get a lot of co-sponsors for that. And either he or another will introduce a good bill this Congress and we’ll be pushing hard to get it passed.
The thing that your viewers could do, I want to encourage you-all, definitely watch “Innovation Race.” This is a fabulous movie. It’ll really give you the data. And you’ll want your friends to watch it too. Anyone who cares about America will love this movie.
Look, you’ve got to know the truth. You’ve got to be informed. You can’t put your head in the sand. You’ve got to see what’s really going on because if you don’t fix it, things just get worse and could be very terrible in the future.
The other thing you can do is go to usinventor.org and sign our Inventor Rights Resolution. And that will show support for what we’re doing, which is important. We have about 80,000 members, but when there’s a call to action, we’ll let you know. And we actually have stopped some terrible things from happening.
[Sen.] Patrick Leahy, before he retired a few months ago, was about to try to put something into the omnibus finance bill. And he was going to do it. It was absolutely about to be done. And all of our members around the country calling their senators and shining light on what he was up to stopped it.
So in addition to getting something good passed that’ll fix the system, we’re working very hard to stop bad things because I will tell you, Big Tech is working hard every day with an army of lobbyists to do things that are all bad for we the people. I’m telling you. And it’s only being totally alert and aware of what’s happening and ready to fight as we are, and to step in and do things and make people aware of it as this grassroots movement is. That’s how you can stop bad things from happening and also make good things happen.
So that’s what we’re up to. So usinventor.org and definitely sign the Inventor Rights Resolution.
Aschieris: I also wanted to get your thoughts—I mean, the U.S. is really known for its inventions and its success in technological advances. And what we’ve been talking about here is very concerning for a number of reasons. And from your perspective, and as an inventor yourself, what are some potential consequences should the U.S. not get this under control? How has this been impacting you?
Landreneau: Well, I’m an inventor and I have three patents, nothing that has made it yet. So I have some great ideas that I haven’t really done anything with because once I got into this fight, it’s like a full-time effort. … I had to fight the fight because when it started 2011, inventors didn’t have a clue and so many people were in the dark.
And of course, that bill got passed. We didn’t have enough of a voice. But a couple years later, another bill was about to be passed, a terrible bill. Big Tech was fully behind it. And I found another inventor like me and we actually went to the Senate, which, before that I didn’t know you could go there. You can go to the House and the Senate, you can get in those buildings, go to every office and talk to people and make something happen. We’ve grown from he and I to now about 80,000 people. So now we have enough behind us to make things happen.
I mean, look, it’s still a huge fight and Big Tech has way, way more. They also have a ton of money, which is a big problem. But I would say this. For myself, I haven’t really even wanted to file a patent or invent anything until we get this thing fixed. And there are a lot of inventors around the country who … [have] kind of decided to boycott the patent system and hold off on everything because as it is now, if it’s really valuable—I mean, I’m telling you, if it’s not that valuable, you put your patent on the wall and your friends are impressed and everything. Everyone thinks you’re smart, but it won’t get attacked because it’s not something that the big guys want to steal. But if it’s really valuable, that’s where you run into this terrible problem.
So I would say long term, oh, man, if we don’t fix this, one, this has been a key part of what has made America different than the rest of the world. It started at the very beginning, 1790. And this is very interesting, especially for, I know a lot of you bureaus, this is something you can use to help convince some of your friends that our Founders weren’t as sexist as they might claim they are. Think about 200 years ago, women didn’t have a lot of rights 200 years ago. In the Patent Act of 1790 under George Washington—you might know what I’m about to say. Do you know?
Landreneau: OK. All right. Get new information.
Aschieris: I’m learning something. Yeah.
Landreneau: In the Patent Act of 1790, inventors were described, this is the bill, third ever act of Congress under George Washington, inventors were described as he, she, or they.
Aschieris: Oh, wow.
Landreneau: Giving women all the rights of men when it came to patents and copyright. The other thing too is the word “right” in our Constitution, directly in the Constitution only shows up with respect to patents and copyright. The Bill of Rights came later.
So this is an extremely constitutional issue. It was so revolutionary. I mean, our Founders said, “You know what? Forget the aristocracies of the rest of the world and how they do things. We’re going to do something totally different. We’re going to say, whoever you are, you come up with something new, you can own it. You can own it.” Man, what an incentive for the little guy to do something.
Now, later, when we started really jumping ahead of everybody, they took notice and they started trying to create their own patent systems, which weren’t as good. But this is such a key part of our country and we totally take for granted that when you are out-innovating your adversaries, you’re pretty darn secure. When you’re not, you’re not very secure. And that’s a key problem right now between us and the [Chinese Communist Party].
By the way, there’s a group here at the [Conservative Political Action Conference] that says we shouldn’t be against China, we should be against the CCP. And she has a good point. They have a good point. It’s not the Chinese citizens. Most of them are probably on our side, would love to be like us. It’s the CCP, the Chinese Communist Party. And I’m telling you, this is a huge threat. We have to stay ahead of them innovation wise, but we also have to have the basic thing that America was and is and was intended to be. Otherwise, we’ve lost everything.
So I say, for the future, one, just for our plain old security in the world, we have to bring back innovation and the rights of inventors and startups, but also just for the dream of America, the American dream. It’s everything.
At usinventor.org, we’re totally committed. We’re in it. When we started this fight, we weren’t getting any support. I personally went totally broke fighting this fight. And then suddenly we started getting support. And now we’re an organization that has grown enough.
And by the way, any of you out there that want to support us financially, we’re a nonprofit and we need your help. But definitely become involved actively in helping us when we have a call to action where your lawmaker may know nothing about this until he or she hears from a constituent that really matters.
Aschieris: Well, Randy, thank you so much for joining us today. I will be sure to include a link to usinventor.org so our listeners can take a look at that. And we’ll also include a link to “Innovation Race,” the movie that we were talking about earlier. So if they want to watch it, they can do so. Randy, thanks so much.
Landreneau: Thank you. Thank you.
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