Tech groups praise House ‘patent troll’ vote

Tech companies and trade groups praised the House for passing the Innovation Act on Thursday.

The Innovation Act — authored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) — aims to curb what's known as “patent trolling,” or bringing or threatening to bring baseless patent infringement lawsuits in the hopes of getting the defendant to settle. 

The bill passed the House 325-91 on Thursday over objections from Democrats, including Judiciary ranking member Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Mel Watt, ranking member on the Judiciary subcommittee on Intellectual Property.

Tech companies, trade organizations and advocacy groups thanked the House for its vote.

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The Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) called the bill “a commendable, bipartisan effort to grow innovation, jobs and the economy.”

“This legislation would make it less profitable for patent trolls to sue, and give targets of unfair patent infringement claims better tools to fight back,” CCIA CEO Ed Black said in a statement. CCIA group includes Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Samsung.

The Application Developers Alliance — which includes Google, Yahoo and small app developers — said the vote is “a victory for app developer creators and innovators, who too often are road kill for patent trolls.”

Alliance President Jon Potter applauded Thursday’s discussion of demand letters, or the letters that firms send accusing recipients of patent infringement and threatening legal action.

The House approved an amendment from Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) that requires more transparency in demand letters, and Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), chairman of the House Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, said he is working on demand letter legislation.

Potter said his group is “encouraged by the overwhelming support for increasing transparency in demand letters” and looks forward with working with lawmakers “as demand letter reform moves forward.”

Trade groups and companies that had initially resisted Goodlatte’s bill voiced support for the version that passed the House Thursday.

BSA – The Software Alliance said the bill “strikes an important balance that will make life harder for bad actors and better for innovators.” BSA represents Apple, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Oracle, among other software companies.

Victoria Espinel, BSA president and former White House intellectual property enforcement coordinator, called the vote “a great accomplishment that gets us a step closer to disarming patent trolls.”

“By reducing the financial incentive for bad actors to engage in predatory litigation practices, the Innovation Act provides a solid framework for needed reform,” she said in a statement.

IBM, which had opposed the bill before Goodlatte’s revisions during the Judiciary Committee markup, applauded the House for passing the Innovation Act.

Microsoft also applauded the passage of the Innovation Act, after having lobbied against certain patent reform provisions being considered in Congress.

The bill addresses the “urgent problem” of abusive patent lawsuits “by striking a balance that deters bad actors while protecting intellectual property rights,” Microsoft general counsel Horacio Gutierrez said in a statement.

While many were praising Goodlatte and the House for passing the Innovation Act, some remain critical of the bill.

Intellectual Ventures — often accused of bringing the lawsuits targeted by the bill — said the bill needs more work.

“We’re not opposed to all, or even most measures in [the bill], but even the best of them need a great deal more refinement and we are disappointed the House rushed to pass this bill,” Russ Merbeth, Intellectual Ventures chief policy counse, said in a statement. 

Innovation Alliance Executive Director Brian Pomper said the vote was “disappointing” but “not a surprise, given the massive effort to speed it through the legislative process without real consideration.”

The bill “will hurt U.S. innovation, economic growth and job creation,” he said in a statement.

“That’s something our nation cannot afford.”