As House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA) patent reform bill (H.R. 3309, “Innovation Act”) gets closer to a scheduled House vote tomorrow (December 5, 2013), opposition to the bill has been pouring in from all over, including some unexpected sources of opposition to a bill targeting “patent trolls.”
As we reported in our blog post yesterday, “Where’s the Fire? The Rush to Patent Reform,” the higher education community has weighed in with opposition to the bill. An article in the Washington Post from last week, “Patent trolls have a surprising ally: universities” points out
Essentially, the universities are concerned that the legislation would make it harder for patent holders to enforce their patents. And they're right. The line between patent trolls and other patent holders isn't always clear, so any reform designed to make patent trolling more difficult is also going to inconvenience many conventional patent holders — including universities.
That’s EXACTLY the point we’ve been trying to make with all of our commentary on patent reform. In the rush to “stop patent trolls” Congress is falling all over itself with proposals that could do more than “inconvenience” conventional patent holders – some of the proposals, including some aspects of Goodlatte’s bill, will do real harm.
Many other organizations that represent sources of true innovation have also been speaking up in opposition to the bill. The National Venture Capital Association told Congress
However, it is critical that Congress balance the need for patent litigation reform with the needs of those start-ups that depend on strong patent protection and that believe the system is working. Congress must also take care to avoid any unintended consequences that could weaken strong patent protection.
In a letter to Congress dated yesterday (December 3), the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) said
Provisions in the legislation would erect unreasonable barriers to access justice for innovators, especially small start-ups that must be able to defend their businesses against patent infringement in a timely and cost-effective manner, and without needless and numerous procedural hurdles or other obstacles.
BIO is the world’s largest biotechnology association, representing 1,100 companies, including many startups at the cutting edge of biotech. The National Small Business Association, an organization that represents 65,000 small businesses and entrepreneurs on Tuesday told Congress in a letter that
NSBA believes that any legislation aimed at reforming our constitutionally-based patent system or the patent litigation process must adequately address and consider the concerns of the small business community, including potential undue or unfair burden that certain provisions incorporated into the Innovation Act (H.R. 3309) may place on individual inventors, technology startups and innovative small companies. Failing to do so could inhibit economic growth and impede small-business entities’ ability to prosper and create job.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), by far the leading trade association for the electrical engineers that are creating a new world is opposed to many of the provisions in the bill. In a letter to Goodlatte on November 19 they said
Our initial review of the Bill indicates that while it contains positive changes from the original bill, newly-introduced problematic provisions and several provisions that remain counterproductive may produce results contrary to the Bill’s stated goals.
It’s no surprise that many people and organizations that are specialists in the field are also opposed to the bill. The Licensing Executives Society believes the bill is not yet ready for a vote because it needs a lot of work. In a statement issued today (December 4) LES Regional Vice President-USA Brian O’Shaughnessy, a shareholder with RatnerPrestia, said
As written, the bill threatens to weaken fundamental property rights, diminish the value of intellectual property and innovation, and suppress business formation and job growth. The America Invents Act is still in its infancy. Further substantive change to the patent system is ill-advised at this time; and, in any event, more input from the user community is needed to refine and balance this bill for the greater good.
The Federal Circuit Bar Association believes that some of the issues being addressed by Goodlatte’s bill would be better handled by the judiciary. As such it has “serious concern” about the bill as is, and its letter closes by “strongly urg[ing] additional study.”
John Kyl, former US Senator from Arizona, a conservative Republican, called by Time magazine in 2010 one of the 100 most influential people in the world, said in an op-ed piece published Monday (December 2)
It is neither fair nor sensible to diminish a patent holder's rights simply because the patent was sold or licensed to another. The fact that a patent holder can choose to sell his or her patent promotes economic efficiency by allowing individuals or firms that are good at innovating to focus on developing inventions and firms that are good at commercializing to focus on licensing or manufacturing.
Other groups that have expressed opposition to the bill include the American Bar Association, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, The Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform, The American Intellectual Property Law Association, Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Judicial Conference of the US, The National Association of Patent Practitioners, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and Innovation Alliance.
A bipartisan group of five legislators (John Conyers (D-MI), Mel Watt (D-NC), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Mo Brooks (R-AL) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) sent a letter to their colleagues asking them to hold off on the Innovation Act until next year. They told their colleagues “All Members deserve a fair opportunity to examine and carefully consider the effects of a bill regarding a complex subject like the nexus of the patent and litigation systems.”
We agree 100%. The bill as written is not ready, would have many unintended consequences, and would do more harm than good. We urge Congress to slow down.