Friday, September 07, 2007

House passes H.R. 1908 225 [220]-175 on Sept. 7, 2007

The Patent Reform Act of 2007, H.R. 1908, passed the House by a vote of 225-175 on September 7, 2007.

PCMag noted: The bill, H.R. 1908, passed with a vote of 225 to 175. It overhauls the way patents are challenged and damages are assessed, an issue that has come to light recently as patent infringement cases – particularly between technology companies – clog the U.S. court systems. Thus, after all the smoke cleared, one sees that this was all about apportionment of damages.

This is a victory for the Coalition for Patent Fairness. A different coalition expressed concerns:

"The Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform continues to support
patent reform. While we appreciate the progress that was made in several
areas, the bill that passed the House remains neither fair nor balanced.
The nation needs patent reform legislation that will protect and encourage
the investments and research needed to bring new and innovative products to
the market. Unfortunately the House-passed bill favors infringers over
inventors. As such, it weakens the U.S. patent system, particularly in the
important area of damages. The damages section in the House passed bill
proposes a new, untested 'prior art subtraction' requirement that is
fundamentally flawed and unworkable.

The damages methodology mandated by H.R. 1908 heavily favors
infringers, as most inventions are not as valuable at the time they are
first conceived as they are after the inventor invests time and money to
develop, manufacture and market them. Moreover, it is widely accepted that
the economic value of an invention at the time it is made is largely
unrelated to its current commercial value. Many great technological
advances are simply ahead of their time, and do not become commercially
valuable, if ever, for years after their creation. This is why, under
current law, reasonable royalty damages are determined by looking to the
marketplace value of the use of the invention at the time infringement
began. This is the only fair way to compensate an inventor for what has
been taken from him by the infringer.

The Coalition for Patent Fairness issued a press release which included:

Today's vote in the House is a victory for American innovators and
consumers, said Jonathan Yarowsky, policy counsel and spokesperson
for the Coalition for Patent Fairness. The current patent system has
become bogged down by delays, prolonged disputes and confusing
jurisprudence. This comprehensive legislation is much needed, and will help
drive innovation, which itself is the driver for American competitiveness
and consumer choice. There is now undeniable momentum, and this will
continue in the Senate with the same bipartisan and balanced approach
undertaken in the House. The Coalition will do its part to work
productively to achieve this important goal.

The call for reform has been loud and vast with the Federal Trade
Commission, the U.S. Solicitor General, the National Academy of Sciences,
the Council on Foreign Relations, leading editorial boards and a wide
range of businesses ranging from high-tech to financial services to
traditional manufacturing all calling on Congress to act. Most recently, the
five university, higher education, and medical college associations
engaged on patent reform the Association of American Universities, the
American Council on Education, the National Association of State
Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, the Association of American Medical
Colleges, and the Council on Governmental Relations expressed their
support for bringing H.R. 1908, the Patent Reform Act of 2007, before
the House for its consideration.


Although PCMag had reported the vote as 225-175, the actual vote was 220-175.
A detailed breakdown of how each Congressman voted may be found at GovTrack.US.

The Democrats voted 160-58 in favor and the Republicans voted 60-117 against. One notes that some GOP IP heavyweights voted in favor of HR 1908, including Coble and Sensenbrenner. Within New Jersey, Republican Chris Smith voted in favor of HR 1908 (?!).


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