It’s not often that legal matters move quickly. That said, a piece of legislation aimed at handicapping hyper-litigious patent lawyers has taken another step in its speedy flight through Washington, though it will likely face speed bumps before becoming law.
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Innovation Act (H.R. 3309) today with a bipartisan 325-91 vote, sending the bill on to the Senate, where it is expected to meet tough scrutiny. Just a couple of weeks ago, the legislation also sailed through committee.
The legislation works to crack down on so-called "patent trolls" – individuals or companies that sue entrepreneurs for infringing on patents they own but don't use. While there is near universal consensus that patent trolls are an expensive damper on entrepreneurship and need to be choked back, there is widespread skepticism that the Innovation Act, as currently written, is the most effective solution to the problem.
For example, the National Small Business Association has said that the Innovation Act, introduced by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.), will harm small businesses and innovators more than it will help them because the pumped up information reporting requirements are too burdensome.
One Washington D.C.-based business group gave the House vote a half a thumbs up, encouraging the movement of lawmakers to address the problem even as it acknowledged the bill’s flaws.
"The Innovation Act isn't a panacea for the problem of so-called 'patent trolls,' and in some ways doesn't go as far as we'd like," R Street policy analyst Zach Graves said in a statement. "But it offers the most comprehensive package of any proposal thus far, including a set of litigation reforms vital to undermining the patent troll business model.”
A sister bill, introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) and dubbed the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act of 2013 (S.1720) is expected to be considered in the Senate. “I commend the House for taking action to address the growing problem of patent trolls,” said Leahy in a statement today. “I look forward to working through the Committee process in the Senate to achieve this goal.”
A hearing on the Senate bill is scheduled for later this month.
Related: Obama Goes After 'Patent Trolls'