IBM pushes Goodlatte to protect software patents

IBM has asked House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to keep software rights protected as he looks to update the patent system.

Software patents need to be protected because they provide fuel for the U.S. economy, IBM Vice President of Governmental Programs Christopher Padilla said in a letter to Goodlatte and other members of the Judiciary Committee sent Friday.

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The country’s patent system is “the envy of the world, and its strong protection for software innovation is critical for sustaining software industry leadership in the U.S.,” Padilla wrote.

Last month, Goodlatte introduced the Innovation Act, which would place higher burdens on companies bringing patent infringement lawsuits and lessen the burdens on the companies being sued.

The bill also includes a provision that would codify recent Patent Office and court decisions, which critics say would open up software patents to additional scrutiny.

Currently, companies being sued for alleged infringement of patents related to financial products can have the Patent Office review the validity of those patents. Some argue that availability of additional review should be expanded to all software patents, while others, including IBM, think opening up the software patents to additional scrutiny will harm the innovators that hold those patents.

Padilla urged Goodlatte and other members of the committee to support an amendment from Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Suzan Delbene (D-Wash.) that would remove that provision from Goodlatte’s bill.

Currently, Goodlatte’s bill would create “a second class citizen category of patents” for software patents, Padilla said in an interview.

While IBM “very much supports the efforts of Chairman Goodlatte” and wants to see an end to patent litigation abuse, the company would oppose Goodlatte’s bill if that provision is not removed, he said.