The House passed patent reform legislation today that would bring sweeping changes the intellectual property landscape and curb litigation abuse by so-called "patent trolls."
In a bipartisan 325-91 vote, the House approved a version of the Innovation Act with provisions to strengthen pleading requirements, require the litigation's loser to pay for high-cost patent fights and create new rules about discovery.
"This bill is something I consider central to U.S. competitiveness, job creation and our nation's future economic security," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the chief sponsor of the bill, said during the floor debate.
The Innovation Act drew criticism from some Democrats, the White House administration and federal judiciary for meddling with litigation rules usually considered the domain of the courts. Former U.S. Patent and Trademark Office director David Kappos of Cravath, Swaine & Moore wrote today in an op-ed published in The Hill that some used the patent troll issue "as cover to unnecessarily weaken our nation's patent laws."
But the White House administration still supported passage of the Innovation Act, saying the bill "would improve incentives for future innovation while protecting the overall integrity of the patent system." The administration still wants to see additional provisions, such as increasing the transparency of patent demand letters sent to businesses.
Today's vote sends the Innovation Act to the Senate, which is expected to refine the reforms. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has introduced his own patent reform bill. Leahy commended the House for taking action today and set a Senate committee hearing on the issue for Dec. 17.
Kappos encouraged the Senate to fully fund the USPTO as "the surest way to improve patent quality," and make other changes. He had previously warned the House against moving too quickly after the overhaul of the patent system in the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act passed in 2011.
"Several provisions must be narrowed and a strong fee diversion provision added," Kappos wrote. "Regardless of what happens on the House floor today, there will be opportunities for significant improvements on the Senate side."
Goodlatte introduced The Innovation Act in October. "The Innovation Act is the product of much negotiation and compromise," he said.
The Innovation Act is supported by The Internet Association, which lobbies on behalf of members that include eBay Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. The association says "nonpracticing entities" and "patent assertion entities" cost the U.S. economy $320 billion over the last four years.
The House lawmakers opposed to the reform legislation, led by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the judiciary, had five major concerns about the bill.
Conyers said the bill does not stop patent fees from being diverted from the USPTO, that pleading requirements will keep legitimate inventors out of the courts, and fee shifting will favor wealthy parties and chill meritorious claims.