On December 5, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3309, the “Innovation Act” originally introduced by Congressman Goodlatte (R-VA). The bill passed by a vote of 325-91, with four amendments to the bill as introduced. Chairman Leahy has introduced similar legislation in the Senate, but significant differences remain to be resolved. Nevertheless the fact that Congress was able to agree on H.R.3309 suggests that 2014 may bring another round of significant U.S. patent reform.
The Innovation Act
The primary focus of the Innovation Act is to curb “abusive patent litigation.” The House Judiciary Report summarizes the goals as follows:
It is the goal of this Committee to ensure that American manufacturing, small businesses, and start ups are protected against patent-enforcement abuse, while also ensuring that the patent system continue to protect and encourage American ingenuity. The Innovation Act, which has earned the support of a broad coalition of America’s most innovative companies, recalibrates the Nation’s patent-enforcement mechanisms in a manner that strikes a balance between these overlapping and sometimes conflicting goals, and ensures that the Nation’s patent system continues to drive technological innovation and economic growth.
Key provisions of the Innovation Act are outlined below. More detail is provided in this Legal News Alert.
Sec. 3. Patent Infringement Actions
Sec. 4. Transparency of Patent Ownership
Sec. 5. Customer-Suit Exception
Sec. 6. Procedures and Practices to Implement and Recommendations to the Judicial Conference
Sec. 7. Small Business Education, Outreach, and Information Access
Sec. 8. Studies on Patent Transactions, Quality, and Examination
Requires the following studies:
Sec. 9. Improvements and Technical Corrections to the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act
Innovation Act Amendments
The four amendments that were approved are outlined below:
The Leahy Patent Transparency and Improvements Act
The parallel legislation pending in the Senate was introduced by Chairman Leahy of the Senate Judiciary Committee on November 18, 2013. However, the “Patent Transparency and Improvements Act of 2013” (S.1720) differs in several significant ways from the House bill. Key differences are outlined below. More detail is provided in this Legal News Alert.
Finding Middle Ground
Although the House Judiciary Report states that the Innovation Act reflects “the emergence of a new consensus” drawn from “industry leaders from different sectors” who “have reached broad agreement on a common set of reforms,” the differences between H.R. 3309 and S. 1720 reveal that further compromise may be required before any of these changes become law. Still, there does appear to be momentum to keep this round of patent reform moving forward.