Patent bill expected to see House victory Thursday

Consider it a rare political win for the tech industry.

On Thursday, the full House is expected to vote on a package of patent litigation reforms put forth by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the chair of the Judiciary committee.

The bill would enact a series of reforms that would, according to supporters, curtail the ability of patent-assertion firms, also known as patent trolls, from threatening firms with frivolous claims of patent infringement in order to extract payments.

The industry’s rallying cry has been that patent trolls are a scourge that must be stopped. But the push for patent reform really gained momentum with the help of other industries such as retail, hotels and others. They have complained and testified in Congress about the legal threats they have received from patent trolls. Lawmakers seem motivated to help their plight.

Prospects for passage of H.R. 3309, dubbed “The Innovation Act,” are good in the GOP-controlled House, according to sources. Republicans tend to like bills that curtail lawyers. The White House, which issued its own package of suggested reforms earlier this year, has worked to bring over dozens of Democrats, a source said.

The big fight will switch to the Senate in the New Year. There, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) will likely try to insert his proposal of a new patent office review of business method patents, after they have been granted but once they are subject of litigation.

Patent-rich firms like Microsoft and IBM, among others, have raised concerns about this new review. But Google and others support it. The divide over the issue has made it hard for tech lobbying firms to give the patent reform effort their full-throated support.

The coming battle in the Senate will be yet another reminder that the tech industry is not really one sector but a vast array of industries. But for now, the industry will likely pull together to savor the moment of congressional success this week.

Image: Patent No. RE44,616, issued this week. It is described as “card shuffling devices and related methods.”

Michelle Quinn Michelle Quinn (78 Posts)

Michelle Quinn is a Business Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. Prior to her current role, she was the Silicon Valley correspondent at Politico covering tech policy and politics. She has also covered the tech industry at the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. She was a blogger for the New York Times.