Darrell Issa May Revive Controversial Patent-Troll Measure

The new chairman of the House’s intellectual-property subcommittee likes the Innovation Act—but that doesn’t mean he won’t try to change it.

Issa: Continues gun-running probe.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
Add to Briefcase
Dustin Volz
Feb. 5, 2015, 9:25 a.m.

As Cap­it­ol Hill braces for an­oth­er round of pat­ent-re­form de­bates, Rep. Dar­rell Issa won’t rule out bring­ing back a con­ten­tious pro­vi­sion that was left on the cut­ting-room floor in the last Con­gress.

Issa, who now wields the gavel on the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee’s Courts, in­tel­lec­tu­al Prop­erty, and In­ter­net Sub­com­mit­tee, is one of 19 ori­gin­al co­spon­sors signed on to the In­nov­a­tion Act, a pat­ent-re­form bill that was in­tro­duced Thursday.

But while the Cali­for­nia Re­pub­lic­an said he fully backs the bill, he also said he would still look for areas to im­prove it — an ef­fort that could in­clude re­viv­ing lan­guage that would ex­pand the U.S. Pat­ent and Trade­mark Of­fice’s abil­ity to re­ject low-qual­ity pat­ents.

“One of the hear­ings that I’ve tent­at­ively sched­uled — and we’ll hold that be­fore the markup — will be on the ef­fect­ive­ness of the cur­rent law,” Issa told Na­tion­al Journ­al, re­fer­ring to a hear­ing he plans to hold next week. “I’m go­ing to use the hear­ing pro­cess to fur­ther people’s un­der­stand­ing, and that’s when we’ll fig­ure it out.”

Issa, him­self a pat­ent-hold­er, pushed to in­clude lan­guage in the In­nov­a­tion Act last Con­gress that would have broadened the “covered busi­ness meth­od” re­view pro­gram to in­clude soft­ware pat­ents. Cur­rent law, en­shrined in the 2011 Amer­ica In­vents Act, al­lows only non-tech­no­lo­gic­al fin­an­cial-ser­vices pat­ents to be eli­gible for the audit.

But a num­ber of blue-chip tech com­pan­ies, in­clud­ing IBM and Mi­crosoft, waged a full-throated cam­paign against Issa’a pro­pos­al, which was also strongly backed by Demo­crat­ic Sen. Chuck Schu­mer. They warned that rais­ing the bar too high for soft­ware pat­ents would kill Amer­ic­an in­nov­a­tion, and they vowed to drop sup­port for the In­nov­a­tion Act un­less the “pois­on pill” was scrubbed.

The gam­bit worked, and the meas­ure was dropped, clear­ing the way for the House’s pas­sage of the In­nov­a­tion Act on a 325-91 vote. The ver­sion re­in­tro­duced Thursday is the same as the one that cleared the cham­ber last time.

Some of the most ar­dent pro-re­form stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing those rep­res­ent­ing the tech start-up scene, have said that ex­pand­ing the re­view pro­gram to in­clude soft­ware pat­ents is the most im­port­ant thing Con­gress can do to stem the tide of pat­ent trolling — the act of stock­pil­ing pat­ents in or­der to use them to leach money from in­vent­ors by threat­en­ing in­fringe­ment suits. The oth­er re­forms, they ar­gue, won’t be as ef­fect­ive in cur­tail­ing pred­at­ory pat­ent lit­ig­a­tion.

The idea ul­ti­mately proved too tox­ic for House Ju­di­ciary Chair­man Bob Good­latte, who shelved it dur­ing the markup pro­cess. Now, even some back­ers of the pro­vi­sion warn that it’s not worth the firestorm that would erupt if it’s brought up again.

“I’m al­most re­luct­ant for it to come back, be­cause it just cre­ated such a big dis­trac­tion,” one pro-re­form ad­voc­ate said. “To be hon­est, I don’t think it’s got the sup­port in the Sen­ate.”

Asked spe­cific­ally about the pro­spects for bring­ing covered busi­ness meth­od ex­pan­sion back, Good­latte on Thursday said he and his col­leagues were open to dis­cuss­ing any ideas on how to tinker with the In­nov­a­tion Act — but he quickly tempered that bon­homie.

“I wouldn’t de­clare any­thing dead,” Good­latte said dur­ing a press con­fer­ence re­in­tro­du­cing the In­nov­a­tion Act. “On the oth­er hand, we have a product that has been very care­fully honed,” and any new change “has to add to the large co­ali­tion we have, not take away from it.”

After Good­latte’s com­ments, Issa sug­ges­ted he might not seek an ex­pan­sion of the re­view pro­gram but in­stead pro­pose nar­row­er lan­guage that would merely ex­tend the length of it. Cur­rent law will have the re­view pro­gram sun­set in 2020.

“Ex­ten­sion is prob­ably a good com­prom­ise between killing it and ex­pand­ing it,” Issa said after the press con­fer­ence.

What We're Following See More »
POTENTIAL CONTEMPT CHARGE
Nadler: Goodlatte Could Subpoena Rosenstein
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee says Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., is poised to subpoena the Justice Department for former FBI Director James Comey’s memos, which the agency so far has failed to produce. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., warned such a move puts Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in jeopardy of being placed in contempt of Congress and the special counsel investigation of being shut down prematurely."

Source:
NO NEW FUNDING INCLUDED
House Ag Committee Passes Farm Bill
4 days ago
THE DETAILS
"On a party-line vote, the House Agriculture Committee approved a five-year farm bill on Wednesday that tweaks the supports now in place—a promise of certainty, leaders said, during a period of low commodity prices and threats of a trade war with agriculture on the front line." The bill includes no new funding over the last farm bill.
Source:
WOULD ASSURE ANYONE PARDONED BY TRUMP CAN BE PROSECUTED BY STATE
Schneiderman Urges NY Lawmakers to Close “Double Jeopardy Loophole”
4 days ago
THE LATEST
INTRO’d LAST NIGHT
Ryan Tamps Down AUMF Talk
5 days ago
THE LATEST

Referring to the AUMF introduced by Sens. Tim Kaine and Bob Corker Monday evening, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday "he won’t allow any bill to come to the House floor that he thinks would restrict military commanders’ ability to fight." Ryan "defended the legality of U.S. military strikes last week against chemical weapons-related sites in Syria, saying President Trump had the authority to order them under the Constitution’s Article II commander-in-chief powers."

PROSECUTORS WILL GET FIRST LOOK
Judge Denies Requests by Cohen, Trump
6 days ago
THE LATEST

Attorneys for both President Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen lost a court challenge today, as they sought to suppress evidence gathered in a raid of Cohen's office and hotel room. "U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood denied the requests and ruled that prosecutors will get first access to the information, followed by Cohen’s defense team ten days later. Wood noted that she has not yet decided whether she will appoint a special master in the case at all."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login