It’s about time. Another voice in the innovation community has risen to counter the repetitive arguments of those favoring legislation to curb the purportedly diabolical actions of patent trolls. I’m looking forward to hearing more such voices.
Bob Pavey, Silicon Valley icon and partner emeritus at venture capital firm Morgenthaler Ventures, isn’t buying the rhetoric. Check out his sober opinion piece in the San Jose Mercury News on the march toward passing H.R.9, the “anti-troll” bill now out of committee and to be debated on the floor of the House of Representatives.
H.R.9 is “an innovation-killing trap,” says Pavey:
[It] radically tilts the playing field, only marginally against patent trolls, but really against SmallTech [sic], even companies with strong patents.
Pavey should know. He’s trained as a physicist and a metallurgical engineer. He earned his MBA at the Harvard Business School. He’s been involved in venture investing since joining Morgenthaler in 1969, and became a partner there in 1971. He’s also a former president and chairman of the National Venture Capital Association. He focuses on investments in wireless technologies, semiconductors, materials, devices and energy.
With all this, Pavey’s got the experience to comment about the need for balance in order to protect innovation on the part of smaller, entrepreneurial technology companies just as much as larger ones:
BigTech, already the bullies on the patent playground, will just have more incentive to attack SmallTech. Even a spurious legal challenge to a SmallTech company would become a life or death expense; for BigTech it would be a mere “cost of doing business.” And by including venture investors in the liability chain, the new legislation makes the innovator’s prospects even grimmer.
Pavey ends by arguing that innovation will be crippled, that Silicon Valley’s innovation ecosystem will be damaged perhaps beyond repair, for the simple reason that protecting innovation will be too costly—for inventors and investors.
Bravo! Innovation relies on investors, and if the risk is too high or the perceived rewards are too low, that investment will not happen. At that point, no matter how exciting or even potentially life changing an inventor’s “flash of genius” may be, she or he won’t have the funds to see it through to reality.
Virtually all large technology success stories begin with a single great idea. Our founding fathers understood the need to foster innovation; today’s Congress should too. Why tip the field to an even steeper angle?
Many thanks to Liz Stewart, V.P. and General Counsel at integrated circuit design innovator Tela Innovations, Inc., for flagging Pavey’s commentary to me!