Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez proposes legislation to prevent tabletop saw technology monopoly

By The Chronicle staff

Third Congressional District Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Washougal, has introduced bipartisan legislation to prevent a potential monopoly on saws with finger-detection technology.

On Tuesday, Gluesenkamp Perez introduced the Preserving Woodworking Traditions and Blocking Government-Mandated Monopolies Act, which is cosponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-South Carolina.

According to the lawmakers, table saw manufacturer SawStop created technology in 2004 that immediately stops a saw blade after it detects a finger. The technology is exclusively installed on SawStop blades, which are both more expensive to purchase and maintain, according to a news release from the congresswoman.

In November, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) proposed a rule that requires the technology on both home and industrial table saws within three years. While SawStop has pledged to unlock the patent on the effective date of the rule if it’s finalized, competitors face the potential risk of a lawsuit if they begin research and development.

This delay, the lawmakers say, could create a monopoly and result in higher use of more hazardous equipment.

“When our federal government considers safety regulations, it’s critical it does so in a way that doesn’t raise costs, limit choice or lead folks to seek out alternative solutions that are potentially more hazardous,” Gluesenkamp Perez said in a statement. “The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s proposed mandate on finger-detection technology could create a monopoly and price out small woodworkers and tradespeople in rural communities like mine. I’m introducing this bipartisan legislation to ensure other saw manufacturers have time to catch up and bring lower-priced finger-detection technology to market before any restriction could take effect.”

If passed, the bill would prevent the CPSC from implementing a rule regarding table saws for at least five years after the relevant patents expire.

“While I believe finger-detection technology is a great safety implementation, the Consumer Product Safety Commission cannot force the market to adopt a technology that is under patent,” Duncan said in a statement. “While the patent is in place, no company can begin implementing the safety technology without being sued by the patent holder. I’m proud to join Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez in delivering a solution that strikes a balance between safety and stopping the development of a monopoly by a patent holder — ensuring that Americans can choose from reasonably priced products.”

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