Patent News

Dec. 5, 2013

National Journal: Mel Watt makes one final stand against patent reform, by Dustin Volz

This post originally appeared in National Journal on December 5, 2013.

Rep. Mel Watt likely knew that House passage Thursday of a bill designed to curb patent trolling was inevitable, but that didn’t stop him from taking one last stand against it during morning debate.

The North Carolina Democrat took to the House floor to emotionally and loudly voice his opposition to the Innovation Act, sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.

“We haven’t done anything in this bill about the real problem here, which is people who are writing demands on little people out in the stream of commerce and making demands on them before they even get to litigation,” said Watt, raising his voice. “This bill says nothing about demand letters.”

Watt added: “We are imposing a burden on 100 percent of people in the patent-litigation system that is at most affecting 20 percent of the system.… Everyone is going to pay the price of this bill if it goes forward in its current form.”

Watt, the ranking member of the Intellectual Property Subcommittee, has been the leading opponent of the Innovation Act alongside Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. The bill passed the Judiciary Committee last month with a bipartisan 33-5 vote, though amendment votes during the markup fell more closely along party lines. It passed the House on Thursday by a vote of 325-91.

Watt may be feeling emboldened in the House as he appears to be on his way out. His nomination to lead the Federal Housing Finance Authority was blocked by Senate Republicans in October. But the Senate’s invocation of the “nuclear option” last month will allow executive nominees to be approved with a simple majority vote.

Goodlatte’s bill aims to curb predatory patent-assertion litigation by making cases for infringement more public and clear, reducing the cost of discovery and helping protect end users facing suits from patent trolls. The bill does not deal with existing bad patents.