House Judiciary Committee Passes Bipartisan Patent Reform Targeting Trolls

Yesterday, in a strong bipartisan vote (33-5), the House Judiciary Committee approved the Innovation Act.

There’s more work to do, but this is a big victory. Nearly every major reform that’s been discussed is in the bill:

  • changing the rules of patent litigation to reduce patent trolls’ leverage, including reducing the cost of discovery and requiring patent owners to give more information up front

  • adding protections for end users sued by patent trolls

  • requiring clearer demand letters

While it’s disappointing that there is no provision to deal with existing bad patents, that part of the fight isn’t over yet.

The problem of patent trolls has gotten so far out of hand that every member at the hearing agreed that something needs to be done, even if there were some disagreements over exactly what to do.

In the end, the Committee showed that Democrats and Republicans can still work together. The members of the House Judiciary Committee deserve enormous credit for putting party aside in order to help the businesses that are being victimized by abusive patent litigation.

Rep. Jeffries in particular worked for days to craft a compromise on fee-shifting, and he deserves major congratulations for pulling it off. And Chairman Goodlatte’s willingness to work with the Democrats and adapt the bill in order to garner more support produced much stronger reforms than many people expected.

There will be a lot to do in the coming weeks, but this is a great start.

Matt Levy

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Matt Levy is Patent Counsel at the Computer and Communications Industry Association, where he handles legal, policy advocacy, and regulatory matters related to patents and is lead blogger for CCIA’s Patent Progress. He is recognized as an expert on patent litigation reform and is cited and quoted widely on the issue.

Matt joined the CCIA in 2013 from private practice, where he got first-hand experience in both patent prosecution and patent litigation, including defending clients against patent assertion entities.

  • Owen

    Covered Business Method review expansion was left out in the Manager’s Amendment, according to the news.

    CBM is a way to send really bad patents back for review for a fee ($30k) and keep litigation stayed while the review proceeds. Just look at the Apple v. Samsung case where the judge saw the PTO had declared a patent invalid and then considered an appeal; the judge declared that the PTO process was so slow, she was going to let the case proceed to final judgement and the judgement would then go into effect whether or not the patent was found valid in the end. A CBM expansion might end bad results like that.