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House Approves (Weakened) Anti-Patent Trolling Bill, Now We Wait For The Senate

from the a-step-forward dept

Earlier today, after some debate on various amendments, the House overwhelmingly approved the Innovation Act by a vote of 325-91. There had been some attempts to completely wipe out the key clauses of the bill. Reps. John Conyers and Mel Watt (two of the biggest SOPA supporters) supported an amendment that basically made the entire bill useless, claiming they were afraid that the current bill would somehow harm good, hardworking patent trolls. The reality is that they wanted to kill the fee-shifting provision that makes the loser pay the legal fees of the other side. Trial lawyers tend to hate fee-shifting. Thankfully that proposal was rejected, though I find it amusing that Watt and Conyers claimed to be so worried about "rushing" into patent law changes, when they'd been so eager to support massive copyright changes in SOPA.

Unfortunately, the bill that did pass had already been watered down by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (who sponsored the overall bill), when he was convinced by heavy lobbying from Microsoft, IBM and a few other large patent holders to remove the "covered business method" program from the bill. That's the program that lets the USPTO more quickly review and toss out bad patents it never should have granted. The only reason I can think not to have that program in there is... if you happen to have a lot of really crappy patents. Thankfully, it appears there's more support for such a program on the Senate side, though Microsoft is still lobbying hard on this.

And, that brings us to the Senate side. While there's a bill out there, it's unclear when it'll actually come to the floor for a vote -- almost certainly not until next year. Plus there's still lots of lobbying against the whole thing, so this could collapse into nothing. But, in the short run, it's at least a big step towards stopping the worst patent trolls out there.

Filed Under: bob goodlatte, congress, house, john conyers, mel watt, patent reform, patent trolls, patents

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  1. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 6 Dec 2013 @ 9:19am


    Having to pay your own fees enables large companies to put small newcomers out of business by simply threatening, or occasionally bring a law suite.

    Which is exactly things are right now, without this bill. So on this point, at worst, the bill does not make anything worse.

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