Gluesenkamp Perez, Duncan Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Protect Lower-Cost Table Saws, Prevent Monopoly on Saws With Finger-Detection Technology

Apr 30, 2024

Today, Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03) and Rep. Jeff Duncan (SC-03) introduced the bipartisan Preserving Woodworking Traditions and Blocking Government-Mandated Monopolies Act. The legislation would help maintain access to lower-cost table saws and prevent a proposed Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) rule from leading to a monopoly on table saws with finger-detection technology.

In 2004, table saw manufacturer SawStop developed technology to stop saw blades immediately upon detecting a finger. The company patented the technology, and it can only be found in SawStop table saws. SawStop saws are several hundred dollars more expensive and have higher replacement costs than a regular table saw, so they can be cost-prohibitive to hobbyist woodworkers and small construction crews and businesses.

In November, the CPSC issued a proposed rule requiring finger-detection technology in both home and industrial table saws within three years. The patent is currently held by SawStop, and while the company pledged to unlock the patent on the effective date of the rule if it is finalized, they have sued competitors who have developed similar technologies. Prior to that date, other manufacturers could face lawsuits if they began research and development on table saws with finger detection.

As a result, SawStop would be the only saw on the market on the effective date, and it could take years for competitors to develop table saws that implement finger-detection technology. This would effectively result in a government-mandated monopoly – and it could result in the use of lower-cost circular saws and plywood as makeshift table saws, which can be more hazardous than utilizing a dedicated tool.

This legislation would prohibit the CPSC from implementing a rule related to the proposed table saw rule until at least 5 years after the relevant patents have been dedicated to the public or expired.

“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,” said Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez. “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.”

“While I believe finger-detection technology is a great safety implementation, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) cannot force the market to adopt a technology that is under patent,” said Rep. Duncan. “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.”

Full text of the bill is available here.

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