House Vote on Patent Bill Expected Soon

July 14, 2015

pic-patent-licenseLawmakers in the House are expected to vote on the NSBA-opposed Innovation Act (H.R. 9) before they conclude legislative business in July. The Senate may take up the NSBA-opposed PATENT Act (S. 1137) later this month or in the fall.

On July 14, Sens. David Vitter (R-La.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) held a joint press conference to highlight the broad opposition to sweeping patent legislation moving quickly through Congress.

H.R. 9 is strongly opposed by inventors, small businesses, venture capitalists, startup communities, and manufacturing, technology, and life sciences companies. During the press conference, the diverse group of lawmakers spoke about defeating the overall bill, if it comes to the floor for a vote, as well as their aim to make the vote closer than it was when it passed in December 2013—by a wide margin of 325-91.

Both H.R. 9 and S. 1137 stem from good-intentioned efforts to address some of the problems with the 2011-passed, NSBA-opposed America Invents Act, including the goal of stopping the practice of fraudulent and abusive patent demand letters from so-called “patent trolls”. Unfortunately, these bills go too far in their efforts to reform the patent system and will greatly weaken the ability of patent holders to legitimately protect their intellectual property.The House Judiciary Committee approved H.R. 9 by a vote of 24-8 in June, and only one Republican, Louie Gohmert (Texas), opposed it.

A bill by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) failed to move forward last year after Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he wouldn’t bring it up for a vote. However, Reid, who’s no longer the majority leader, doesn’t have the power to stop a similar measure (S. 1137) by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) this year. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Grassley’s bill by a vote of 16-4 last month.

NSBA has weighed in with letters of opposition to both the PATENT Act and the Innovation Act, and is instead urging lawmakers to support the Support Technology and Research for Our Nation’s Growth (STRONG) Patents Act of 2015 (S. 632) in the Senate, and the Targeting Rogue and Opaque Letters (TROL) Act of 2015 (H.R. 2045) in the House. Both the STRONG Patents Act and the TROL Act would improve the current patenting system by addressing patent trolls and avoid many of the burdens associated with S. 1137 and H.R. 9.

The TROL Act focuses on abusive patent demand letters and would provide the Federal Trade Commission authority to levy fines on patent trolls, while ensuring small patent holders aren’t inadvertently punished. It includes the following protections for small patentees: the “pattern or practice” requirement that would target mass mailing of these demand letters; a “bad faith” requirement to focus on purposefully deceptive demand letters; and the establishment of a uniform federal standard for enforcement of patents.

The STRONG Patents Act also addresses abusive demand letters as well as a number of other problems under the current patenting system, including: providing the Federal Trade Commission greater authority in going after patent trolls; ensuring that pleading standards for patent-infringement cases match the standards used for all other forms of civil actions; creating balance in post-grant reviews to ensure a quick and fair process; and conducting a study on how small businesses are impacted by the U.S. patent system.

NSBA is urging all small-business owners to weigh in on the patent reform debate, and contact your lawmakers TODAY.

Click here to view NSBA’s letter of opposition to the Innovation Act (H.R. 9)

Click here to view NSBA’s letter of opposition to the PATENT Act (S. 1137)

Click here to view NSBA’s letter of support to the TROL Act of 2015 (H.R. 2045)

Click here to view NSBA’s letter of support to the STRONG Patents Act of 2015 (S. 632)