Ars Technica: Patent reform hits Congress again with reintroduced Innovation Act, by Megan Geuss
This article originally appeared in Ars Technica on February 5, 2015.
Today, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced a new version of the Innovation Act, a bill designed to curb so-called patent trolls. Patent trolls have no business beyond acquiring patents and suing other companies, knowing that many will pay a settlement rather than pay the $1 million or more it can cost to fight a patent through trial.
Bipartisan bill has most of what reformers want—and a real chance of passing.
The new Innovation Act is largely identical to legislation of the same name introduced to the House of Representatives by Rep. Goodlatte almost a year and a half ago. That bill had bipartisan support and a surprisingly good chance of bringing real patent reform to the US. It flew through the House easily, passing 395 to 91, and while it looked like such a popular bill would have an easy time clearing the Senate, the first Innovation Act had no such luck. Instead, it was killed in a quick and surprising statement made by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Sources later indicated that Sen. Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was the major driver behind the death of the bill.
Of course, this time around, Sen. Reid won’t be able to kill the bill. This January marked the inauguration of the 114th US Congress, which has a Republican-controlled Senate, so Goodlatte’s new Innovation Act may have better prospects when (and if) it hits the Senate.
The new Innovation Act is co-sponsored by Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), and Lamar Smith (R-Texas).
Still, the new Innovation Act, being largely the same, also faces a lot of the opponents that the old Innovation Act faced. The Innovation Alliance, a group of patent-holding companies including Qualcomm, Dolby, and InterDigital, released a statement today saying that “the bill being introduced is over broad and does not take into account the many developments that have taken place over the past year in the patent landscape—including a documented plunge in the patent litigation rate, five Supreme Court cases, and actions by the US Patent and Trademark Office, Federal Trade Commission, and Judicial Conference that address many of the problems that this legislation originally targeted when it was first introduced in the House in 2013.”
The Innovation Alliance’s objection does reflect a real challenge for the new, similar Innovation Act, though. At a panel on patent reform at the Consumer Electronics Show in January this year, there seemed to be more skepticism about solving the issues with the patent system through sweeping legislation. Still, patent reformers on the Hill are hoping to recapture that 2013 momentum.