Tech groups battle over patent protection expansion

Tech groups are battling over a legislative effort to allow the U. S. Trademark and Patent Office (USPTO) to examine the validity of patents at the center of lawsuits between tech companies.

Start-up companies sent one letter on Monday arguing that a patent review process meant to protect U.S. patents should be expanded from covering just financial products to other patents such as software and computer products.

The letter to members of Congress was signed by 247 app developers, tech industry CEOs and startup founders, but was sent by the Application Developers Alliance, which members include Google, Intel, Samsun and AT&T.

On the other side are big tech companies, including Microsoft, Adobe and IBM.

In a letter sent Monday to the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, a group of over 100 companies and organizations argued bills expanding the patent review process would “harm U. S. innovators … by unnecessarily undermining the rights of patent holders.”

Allowing the PTO to reexamine more existing patents for software will “create uncertainty and risk that discourage investment in any number of fields where we should be trying to spur continued innovation,” their letter said.

At issue are bills by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) that would make permanent and expand the patent review process in the America Invents Act.

The expansion of patents that can be reviewed by the USPTO is not included in a patent reform discussion draft released by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) on Monday.