Outside groups largely support Senate patent reform bill

Hill file photo

A Senate bill introduced Wednesday to thwart so-called patent trolls is receiving praise from a broad swath of interest groups.  

The bill includes some key differences from a House patent reform bill sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteLobbying world Overnight Tech: Judiciary leaders question internet transition plan | Clinton to talk tech policy | Snowden's robot | Trump's big digital push Overnight Finance: Anxiety grows over Brexit vote | Investors prefer Trump to Clinton in poll | Key chairman open to censuring IRS chief MORE (R-Va.) that has received wide praise from retailers and technology companies but pushback from other industries, like biotechnology and universities. Any criticism of the Senate bill was largely muted after its introduction Wednesday.   

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Goodlatte himself said he is encourages by the new Senate bill, which aims to reform some litigation practices used by trolls that buy up patents solely for the purpose of extracting financial settlements. 

"While differences remain between the Innovation Act, which I introduced in the House earlier this year, and the Senate bill, I look forward to working with my colleagues to enact strong, meaningful reforms to curb patent litigation abuses," he said in a statement. 

The Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform — which includes members like Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Eli Lilly and others — praised the new proposal. The group has expressed reservations about the House bill in the past. But the group pointed to compromises on fee shifting and recovery, discovery, pleading requirements and the customer stay provision.

"21C commends the bill's sponsors and their staffs for their inclusion of provisions that will curtail patent litigation abuses without unduly undermining the ability of all patent owners to enforce their patents against infringers," the group's chairman Kevin Rhodes said.

The National Venture Capital Association, another critic of the House proposal, called the Senate bill an encouraging first step. 

"While we remain concerned that the Innovation Act of 2015 introduced in the House could be harmful to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, the PATENT Act is an encouraging step in the right direction and we are eager to dig in and review the details with our membership," the group said in a statement. 

Groups who have been supportive of broad patent reform also praised the introduction.  

United for Patent Reform, which represents retailers and technology companies, said senators should be "commended for their hard work." It said it would continue to look for improvements. 

“The United for Patent Reform coalition looks forward to working with the Senate to make this the strongest possible patent litigation reform legislation,” said Matthew Shay, a leader of the group. “The sponsors of this legislation have shown genuine leadership by advancing several real solutions to the costly problems patent trolls inflict on America’s business community."

Praise was not universal, however. Sen. Chris CoonsChris CoonsLynch pressured to recuse herself after Clinton tarmac meeting Lynch meeting with Bill Clinton creates firestorm for email case WH defends Lynch from Clinton meeting fallout MORE (D-Del.) who has introduced a narrow reform bill, said broad changes harm inventors' ability to defend their patent in court. 

“Proposals that create new barriers to the legitimate enforcement of patent rights favor large businesses over small ones, and foreign entities over domestic manufacturers," he said in a statement. 

The Innovation Alliance, which represents companies like Qualcomm and Dolby Laboratories, said it would oppose the bill on similar grounds.  

"Passage of this act would cripple the ability of legitimate U.S. patent owners to protect their ideas from infringers, both in the United States and overseas," said Brian Pomper, the group's executive director. 

— Updated 4:44 p.m.