Prospects Dim For Patent Reform This Fall

October 14, 2015

pic-patent-licenseOnly a month ago, as Congress returned from its summer recess, both the House and the Senate appeared poised to advance several patent reform measures that had stalled before the recess amid heavy fighting between different interest groups.  On Oct. 7, Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) participated in a bipartisan online Google Hangout to discuss their concerns with patent reform legislation currently pending before Congress. During the Google Hangout, both  the Innovation Act (H.R. 9) and its companion measure in the Senate, known as Protecting American Talent and Entrepreneurship (PATENT) Act (S. 1137) were  discussed as well as Senator Coons’ bill the Support Technology and Research for Our Nation’s Growth (STRONG) Patents Act (S. 632). Coons and Massie have led opposition to H.R. 9 and S. 1137, including holding a joint bicameral press conference in July to highlight the broad opposition to both bills.

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.

H.R. 9 was originally scheduled for a vote this summer but has been delayed because of strong opposition from inventors, small businesses, venture capitalists, startup communities, as well as manufacturing, technology, and life sciences companies. According to Rep. Massie, opponents in the House have managed to stop advancement and he believes they have prevented it from moving anytime soon. Its companion bill, S. 1137, is likewise unlikely to move according to Senator Coons, as it would require agreement from several key players pushing the bill to bring it to the floor for a vote.

Instead NSBA is urging lawmakers to support the STRONG Patent Act 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.

As the Congressional bandwidth continues to be spent on finding a new Speaker in the House and ultimately then  moving on to the budget, as well as other must-do issues before the end of the year, many believe patent reform may not be a priority again for some time.

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)