Patent Reform Long Overdue (Rep. Howard Berman)

We live in a world of cell phones, computer software and hardware, email and instant messaging…a very different world than the one we knew in 1952, when our patent laws were last updated.   And every new day brings more new ideas and more patentable inventions.

Our patent laws are lagging far behind our innovative society.  The Patent and Trademark Office is overwhelmed with patent applications.  The courts are confronted with huge numbers of infringement cases, many of which just aren't meritorious.  There is an industry of individuals and companies that seek patents – not because they intend to produce and sell some product – but solely to seek licensing fees…the notorious patent "trolls."
It's been clear for some time that comprehensive patent reform was necessary and the Judiciary Committee has been working on a bill since 2003.   Over thirty witnesses have given testimony on this complex issue, including independent inventors, academics, the Patent and Trademark Office, universities, software developers, drug companies, banks and media companies.  We have reviewed detailed analytic studies by both the National Academies of Sciences and the Federal Trade Commission.

H.R. 1908, the Patent Reform Act of 2007 is a balanced and comprehensive response to the three major problems facing our patent system:  too many questionable patents, no way to challenge a patent other than lengthy and expensive court proceedings, and insufficient guidance in the law to make sure that judges and juries provide fair compensation to inventors when their patents are infringed.

The Committee has taken special care to protect inventors and promote innovation in the provisions of this groundbreaking legislation.  A number of groups that had some concerns about it have now withdrawn their opposition, including the University of California, the Association of American Universities and the AFL-CIO.   It is supported by all the major consumer groups, high-tech companies and financial services firms.