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Houston innovator: Why we need to protect the individual inventor

Individual inventors are facing more obstacles than ever. Photo via Getty Images

In 2011, Congress passed The America Invents Act, which created an administrative pathway for challenging the validity of patents. This allowed an opportunity to bypass our courts and get non-judges to determine whether an already issued patent can be enforced against infringers.

Upon the inception of PTAB, 84 percent of valid patents are being invalidated. This represents a major win for the big tech companies and China in the marketplace. It has destroyed the individual inventor’s patent rights, cost millions of dollars in lost patent protection costs and market valuation costs, and destroyed the ability of individual inventors to raise investment capital for their invention.

In addition, a court case, Alice v. CLS Bank, further eroded the rights of individual inventors by creating an exception to patentability for “abstract ideas,” which the court did not define.

US Inventor, a lobby group, was formed by Josh Malone about 10 years ago to fight for the rights of the individual inventor.

As a member of US Inventor, I am in a unique position, representing two distinct roles. I have been affected by the Alice ruling, as my investors and I lost $12 million in our rejected appeal to the Supreme Court due that ruling. I am also the founder of two separate inventor groups: the Houston Inventors Association and the Young Inventors Association of America.

It's not all bad news, however. In my work with inventors, I've seen a few success stories first hand. Our 2016 Young Inventors Showcase winner was then sixth grader Sean Gilmore, who created the “Sleepover Bed Tent.” Sean, with his mother Judge Vanessa Gilmore’s assistance, went on to find a manufacturer in China and launched his product.

In 2019, also as a sixth grader finalist from Sablatura Middle School in Pearland, Anahi Barroche invented the "Super Stopper Watch." She just received her patent for her invention, which she wrote herself, according to her mother.

I believe Houston is the Innovation Capital of the World, but we need to protect the individual inventor. If you're interested in helping make Houston one of the US leading local innovation communities, consider signing the online petition.


Greg J. Micek Sr. is a lawyer turned business architect. He founded the Houston Inventors Association and the Young Inventors Association of America.

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