Local tech entrepreneur-turned-politician U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, meeting with the local business community at the Bozeman Chamber of Commerce on Friday, said he agreed with concerns raised by several people about the need for reform in the U.S. Patent system.
“There’s this kind of arms race where you have to develop a patent portfolio to protect yourself from the other big guys who have patent portfolios,” said Bob Wall, a former engineer with RightNow and Oracle, now with startup IronCore labs.
“This world of patent trolls, and people making their living on that, it is stifling innovation to some extent,” he said, adding reform is needed.
The current system, said Steve Birrell, an engineer at Bozeman photonics company Quantum Composers, has a tendency to protect the big companies that have libraries of intellectual property they can trade with each other.
“When you’re a little guy getting in the market how do you compete with that?” he said. “You can’t.”
Another participant in the forum, Bruce Zignego, added that smaller companies often don’t have the resources to hire attorneys to defend against patent infringement.
“I completely agree,” Daines said. “The guy that gets hurt is the entrepreneur, the start-up, the little guy.”
However, Daines said, attempts at reform should be done carefully, given what he called Washington, D.C.’s tendency “to put something out there that at the end of the day may do more harm than good.”
Daines was also presented with an award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at Friday’s event, recognizing his support of what the chamber considers pro-business legislation.
“He voted with the business community on 12 of 14 votes that we score,” said U.S. Chamber representative Chris Eyler, noting the recognition was based on Daines’ record as Montana’s lone U.S. representative before he was elected to fill one of the state’s two U.S. Senate seats last fall.