Critics to Congress: Put the brakes on patent bill

A patent reform bill targeting so-called trolls needs more time to mature, several groups say

The U.S. House of Representatives needs to take more time to debate and rewrite a bill targeting so-called patent trolls because several provisions would hurt legitimate patent holders, several critics of the bill said Tuesday.

The House is scheduled to vote on the Innovation Act as soon as this week, but members of the higher education, venture capital and other industries called on Congress to refine the legislation before passing it.

The Innovation Act is good "for people who don't like patents and would like them all to go away," said John Vaughn, executive vice president of the Association of American Universities. University researchers often invent products that are manufactured by private companies, and the bill, as written, is "going to disrupt this system," he said during a press briefing Tuesday.

The Innovation Act, sponsored by several members of the House Judiciary Committee, including Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, targets businesses that use patent licensing and lawsuits as their primary source of revenue. These patent assertion entities (PAEs) are often called patent trolls, but it's difficult to define trolls in a way that protects legitimate inventors who choose not to make products based on their patents.

The bill would require plaintiffs in patent infringement lawsuits to identify the patents and claims infringed in initial court filings, in an effort to reduce complaints about PAEs filing lawsuits with vague patent claims. The bill would also allow judges to require that losing plaintiffs pay defendants' court fees.

In addition, the bill would allow courts to delay massive discovery requests from patent infringement plaintiffs until the patent claims have been interpreted by the court, and it would allow manufacturers and suppliers to intervene in patent litigation against their customers. In recent years, some PAEs have targeted end users of technologies that allegedly infringe their patents in an effort to collect more patent license fees or court awards.

The bill has split the U.S. technology industry, with many large companies and trade groups supporting the bill.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a long-time critic of over-broad technology patents, sent out an email blast Monday morning, calling on supporters to contact lawmakers in support of the bill. "The Innovation Act is the best bill yet that stops patent trolls, bad actors who use intimidation and lawsuits to shake down inventors, small companies, and startups," the email said. "That's why thousands of concerned individuals, companies, and organizations have joined us in supporting this bill. Now is the time for meaningful patent reform."

President Barack Obama's administration also voiced support for the bill Monday. "The bill would improve incentives for future innovation while protecting the overall integrity of the patent system," the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.

But critics of the bill said Monday that the House Judiciary Committee has rushed the bill to the House floor. The bill needs fine-tuning, said David Kappos, former director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

A provision to allow manufacturers to intercede in lawsuits targeting end users of an allegedly patented technology would "damage" the U.S. patent system, Kappos said. The provision is a "well intentioned" effort to protect end users against questionable patent lawsuits, but the wording of the provision needs work, he said.

Todd Dickinson, another former USPTO director who's now executive director of the American Intellectual Property Law Association, agreed. Congress should spend more time on that provision, but some action is needed, he said. "End users who innocently adopt a technology need to be protected," he said.

In addition, the bill "micromanages" the way judges handle patent lawsuits, Dickinson said. Congress shouldn't tell 550-plus district court judges that "one size fits all" in patent litigation, he said.

The provision directing judges to delay discovery requests from patent plaintiffs also needs more work, said Brian Pomper, executive director of the Innovation Alliance, a trade group representing some U.S. tech and manufacturing companies in favor of strong patent protections.

The bill "was put together so quickly," he said.

The sponsors of the bill introduced it on Oct. 23, after months of discussions, and the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve it and send it to the House floor on Nov. 21. Goodlatte has defended the process, saying the committee has debated many of the issues in the bill over a period of years.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags governmentlegislationlegalintellectual propertypatentElectronic Frontier FoundationU.S. Patent and Trademark OfficeU.S. White House Office of Management and BudgetU.S. House of RepresentativesBob GoodlatteInnovation AllianceDavid KapposBrian PomperAssociation of American UniversitiesTodd DickinsonJohn Vaughn

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?