SBIR Insider Newsletter
Dear SBIR Insider,
There are a number of items I want to discuss with you but tonight there is only time for a few very time sensitive items that may be of interest to you. Item #1 is the DoD SBIR submission site because Tuesday is your last full day to submit for the DoD 15.2 SBIR and 15.B STTR, (submission closes Wednesday June 24, at 6:00am edt). Item # 2 is all important patent legislation which is supposed to be voted on this week in the House (H.R. 9 "Innovation Act") and the Senate's version (S. 1137 "Protecting American Talent and Entrepreneurship" [PATENT] Act). Both of these items have the potential for causing small businesses plenty of grief.
At last week's National SBIR Conference many of you kind readers reached out to me and requested more frequent (but relevant) SBIR Insider editions. So we will try to do that without wearing out any welcome I may have with you. Consequently we hope to have another SBIR Insider for you in a week or so with a lot of good news including information about award winners and new generations of SBIR companies.
DoD SBIR/STTR Submission Web Site Issues
Since Tuesday June 23 is the last full day for SBIR/STTR submissions, and so many people are procrastinators, expect the DoD submission site to be flooded with people trying to make submissions.
We've been hearing of companies having problems submitting when there wasn't a lot of traffic, so this will be a real test for the new contractor and their "modern system" under load. Also, you should not be expecting the process to be like the old system, so be prepared for some differences.
If their system fails under the load, shame on them, BUT if you fail to understand and deal with the new interface, it may be shame on you. We must differentiate between the two, and I have a few suggestions for you to consider:
As you progress with your submission(s), take notes as to the time, prompts and responses the server is giving you. If error messages occur, do a "print screen" of those messages for evidence (you can print those out or save them as graphics). You can even shoot a video of it with your phone.
If the server system won't let you submit (and your doing this before June 24 at 6:00am edt), send an email immediately to the DoD SBIR Help Desk at email@example.com and copy someone in your office, and optionally you may copy us at firstname.lastname@example.org (as a neutral 3rd party to verify you sent the email in a timely manner). Make sure you state which agency component you were submitting to. Also try calling the DoD Help Desk (800-348-0787) to document the fact you tried to submit. Keep a log of the attempted call and time.
If things do go well, make sure you print off the confirmation screen because the next step is for the DoD to send your proposal to the appropriate agency component, which has been anything but smooth sailing (for a variety of reasons). I want you to have proof of submittal. The agency components really do want to receive your submissions.
NOTE: Feel free to drop us a note at email@example.com and let us know of your submission experience (good and bad). We will compile a report that we will share with the relevant parties in the hopes of their improving the system. At your request we also redact your personal information because many of you fear receiving a "Scarlet Letter" from the DoD, which I believe doesn't happen.
House & Senate Patent "Deform" Legislation will Seriously Hurt Small Innovative Businesses [Action Alert Requested]
In the Halls of Congress, giant corporations such as Google have lobbied heavily for patent reform, largely disguised as positive for the country but co-aimed at putting small businesses (who create almost 16 times more patents per employee than large entities), at a severe disadvantage.
One knowledgeable source wanting to remain anonymous told us "Small businesses are not the target, but are more like collateral damage in the war against "patent trolls". Interestingly enough, one huge organization is often cited by many in the industry as the largest "patent troll", and that is Intellectual Ventures (IV) of Washington State. This billion dollar company who has been referred to as a giant "patent plaintiff", "patent-hoarder" as well as "patent troll" has received funding from Google, and many other tech giants, to do their best to do their worst. Of course there are some positive opinions of IV as well.
These patent issues are very complex and nobody in the SBIR small business arena knows this turf better than Bob Schmidt, a multiple small business owner and SBIR champion. Bob doesn't buy the moniker of "severe disadvantage" when it comes to the effects of these bills on small business, it's more like "severe disaster" (my words, not his).
Courtesy of Mr. Schmidt, here are but a few of the issues that will affect you and your small business if you have or seek patents: a) Loser Pays - The loser in a patent infringement case may likely have to pay all fees for both sides. This provision singles out litigants with limited resources; it would create substantial chilling effects on small entities’ (patentees or alleged infringers) ability to enforce their legal rights. b) Bonding or “Pay to Play” - This requires the inventor plaintiff to post a bond or certify that they can pay the alleged infringers legal fees should they not prevail. This puts enforcing a patent beyond the financial capability of all but the largest and wealthiest of small businesses. Pay to Play would result in almost all of the over 5,000 active SBIR companies being unable to enforce their patents. This is but the tip of the iceberg. This legislation also allows the piercing of the corporate veil of small businesses. Your stockholders could be on the line for far more than their investment in your company.
The House version of this bill, H.R. 9 "Innovation Act" is scheduled to be voted on this week, and the Senate's version fairly soon. Bob Schmidt, the SBTC and the NSBA urge you to send a letter to your Senator and Representative NOW!. They have made it easy for you with a Capwiz form that contains the verbiage you can instantly send, replace or modify. You'll find it at http://capwiz.com/nsbaonline/issues/alert/?alertid=66094626
You can see Bob Schmidt's letter to Representative Bob Goodlatte, Chairman, House Judiciary Committee at http://sbtc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/SBTC-Opposes-HR-9-Managers-Amendment-June-10-2015.pdf
DoD SBIR Commercialization Survey Snafu
Another example of the new DoD SBIR contractor's lack of quality control was apparent last week as the DoD sent an email blast to it's many recipients asking them to fill out a simple SBIR commercialization survey form.
The problem was that the form was riddled with errors, would not allow multiple selections where multiple selections were asked for, and ultimately the form wouldn't work! The submit button(s) were broken, so the small businesses wasted their time filling the form out to no avail.
See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5tkJORt7sY for a quick demo of this SBIR Commercialization Form problem.
The reason I created the video is because some people just didn't believe these claims could be true. Well, they are and you can see for yourself.
What makes this so sad is that this form could have been done by a novice on SurveyMonkey in a less than an hour. I know the new contractor has the skill set to do this, but they didn't proof or check their form or system, they just carelessly shot it out there for you to wrestle and waste you time with. This has all the flavor of their "No Search" search site we documented last month (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ek2nDuIM8E )
This can't be blamed on the former contractor, or lack of direction from the PM. This sits squarely on the shoulders of the contractor, and can be summed up in one word, UNACCEPTABLE.
I've heard that the contractor has hired several experienced people from other DoD components, so they now have some knowledgeable SBIR "boots on the ground". It didn't help in this case, but hopefully it will for the closing of the 15.2 SBIR.
But in looking at this brief history, you can understand why I'm worried about the 15.2 data getting to the agency components in an accurate and timely manner.
There were quite a bit of positive SBIR goings-on in the last few weeks and we will report on those events to you soon. The Tibbetts Awards at the White House, and a very special Hall of Fame induction of Dr. Arthur and Dr. Judith Obermayer. Their story is amazing and we'll bring it to you in the next issue.
We also had a very interesting and somewhat different National SBIR Conference in DC, collocated with the TechConnect World Conference and Expo. Some incredible young and new talent was presented.
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