As I noted last week, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the “Innovation Act” that contains a number of draconian provisions that would severely change the way patent litigation is conducted. The Committee held a hearing on the bill earlier this week.
Several Republicans on the Committee, including Chairman Goodlatte and Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) raised serious concerns about patents to “basic ideas” and how patent litigation is causing people to lose jobs. Abusive litigation tactics in the patent realm require a bill such as H.R. 3309.
On the other side of the issue, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the Committee’s ranking member, cautioned against taking so much discretion out of the hands of district court judges. He specifically objected to the limited discovery provisions and the automatic fee shifting required by the bill. He also suggested waiting to see how the PTO and the courts handle some of the business method and post-grant reviews before expanding these proceedings.
Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) suggested that the problem of patent trolls has been overblown. He has apparently been reading the GAO report on patent litigation. Some of the requirements would be overly prescriptive to the courts.
Several witnesses spoke favorably of the bill. Former USPTO Director David Kappos suggested that the bill not be rushed through Congress. Several provisions are good, while others require further study and revision. Smaller inventors have not had their views heard regarding these matters. Kappos is now a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore.
Meanwhile, Reps. Conyers, Watt, and Doug Collins (R-GA) have introduced the Innovation Protection Act, H.R. 3499. This bill seeks to attack a separate problem that the PTO has been facing for many years: fee diversion. It would permit the PTO full access to its fees regardless of government shutdown, sequestration, or failure of appropriations. This would be until Congress decides otherwise of course.