Critics split on Goodlatte’s amended patent bill

Anne Wernikoff

Some high-ranking Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are still unhappy with committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s updated patent reform bill.

On Monday, Goodlatte (R-Va.) introduced an amendment to his Innovation Act that would strip it of one of the most controversial provisions, which would have increased the kinds of patents eligible for additional review at the Patent and Trademark Office.

Currently, a company being sued for patent infringement could ask the Patent Office to re-evaluate the patent only if it’s related to financial products. Some argue that additional review should be available for software patents.

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Goodlatte’s original bill attempted to codify Patent Office and court decisions that allow for additional review of some software patents, but after opposition from members of the committee and certain companies, Goodlatte introduced an amendment to remove the patent review provision.

House Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), ranking member of the Judiciary subcommittee on intellectual property, released a joint statement Monday expressing their continued opposition of the bill.

Goodlatte’s amendment “made some improvements,” but the bill would still “make sweeping and unnecessary changes to patent litigation and encroach on the independence of the federal judiciary,” the two said.

“While we support measured and balanced changes to respond to the most egregious practices involving patents, we do not believe that this legislation should become a vehicle to pass far ranging changes to the litigation system, such as limits on pleadings and discovery, and intrusive mandates on the court system.”

Some vocal critics on the committee have thrown their weight behind Goodlatte’s modified bill.

Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), who had authored an amendment that would strip the Innovation Act of its patent review provision, issued statements Monday supporting Goodlatte’s amendment.

Collins called the amendment “great news for patent reform.”

The update to the bill “reflects the position of a growing, bipartisan group of Members,” he said. “I look forward to Wednesday’s markup and helping the Chairman champion the Innovation Act both in Committee and on the House floor.”

DelBene thanked Goodlatte for removing the provision regarding the patent review process, which she said “injected unnecessary controversy into a bill that otherwise has many areas of consensus.”

The amendment “moves the Innovation Act in a positive direction,” she said.