The patent reform legislation headed to the House floor this week is a solid piece of legislation that protects patent holders while also instituting smart, common-sense reforms that will allow the U.S. patent system to work as efficiently and effectively as we need it to.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers labored for more than six years to build this consensus, and patent laws are finally on the verge of being brought into the 21st century.
Opponents of reform have fabricated arguments (that the legislation is unconstitutional or a special-interest favor) in order to protect deep-pocketed patent “trolls”: people who buy up legally questionable patents so they can shake down legitimate businesses for royalties, often by using the courts as a weapon.
Their arguments aren’t true, but they must be refuted. In particular, it appears that those who have a concern about the broader bill have targeted one of its components: Section 18.
The provision would allow experts at the patent office to re-examine the types of business-method patents the Patent and Trademark Office believes to be of the poorest quality.
Section 18 was drafted in close coordination with the PTO and is a temporary proposal. It allows the PTO to review qualified business-method patents against the best prior art in a re-examination process.
Why would anyone oppose a process that allows low-quality patents — as identified by the PTO — to be reviewed by the experts?
Section 18 enjoys broad bipartisan support in the House and Senate, but it faces a vigorous, big-money campaign that is trying to get it stripped from the bill. Here are the real facts:
• Section 18 creates a pilot program to allow the patent office to re-examine legally disputed business-method patents on financial products or services.
• The PTO wanted the program in order to better deal with a growing number of egregious, low-quality patents.
• Business-method patents on financial activities are the type of patents that are most often the subject of lawsuits and abuse. They are litigated at a rate that is 39 times greater than other patents.
• Section 18 does not target any particular company or individual. It is designed to correct a fundamental flaw in the system that is costing consumers millions of dollars a year.
• The provision is supported by a broad, bipartisan coalition that includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The patent reform bill should be approved, and Section 18 should be kept intact as part of that legislation. Those trying to do otherwise are looking to create a controversy that just shouldn’t exist.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet.