Patent News

Dec. 5, 2014

The Hill Opinion: Patent reform – Not too fast, by Robert L. Stoll

This post originally appeared in The Hill on December 5, 2014.

Pundits have been prognosticating that patent reform legislation is imminent. The chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), has been quoted in several media outlets as being ready to move similar legislation in early 2015 in the House. Some Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, including the chair, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), have said to expect a bill in the next Congress.

In the fall of 2013, a patent bill overwhelmingly passed in the House — only to die in the Senate in the spring of 2014 because then-Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would not bring it to the floor. The proposed reforms were focused on addressing a problem with patent litigation and demand letters, and intended to provide relief to mom and pop shops and smaller businesses.

With Republicans at the helm in the Senate, though not with a 60-vote majority, many believe that a similar reform bill is poised for a quick and easy ride to passage. Congress has changed but several hurdles remain — there are vocal dissenters within the tech community, small inventors and universities have concerns, and the trial lawyers are still opposed, as are the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. These are powerful constituencies who still believe that any legislation should be narrowly crafted, and they are gearing up for a fight.

Even if the prospects for patent reform seem to have brightened, there is an increasing amount of data that suggest the need for aggressive congressional action has waned. As we look toward the next Congress, it would be wise to take time to fully consider these developments. When it comes to patent reform, it is critically important that Congress deliver solutions using a scalpel instead of a buzz saw.