Patent Reform Bill Passed in House

Written by on Sunday, September 9th, 2007

The House passed its Patent Reform Bill on Friday with a 220-175 vote, reported the San Jose Mercury News.

According to the Mercury News, the passage of the Bill was in part due to a push by Democratic leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  Sixty Republicans also supported the Bill, including Republicans in districts with large concentrations of high tech companies such as California, Virginia, and Texas.  The Senate plans to take up a similar bill this fall.

The passage of this Bill in the House is viewed as a victory for the high technology industry, but that victory comes at the expense of the biotech industry, which has not supported patent reform.

Ephraim Schwartz of InfoWorld reported on the differing views of the two industries last week:

One of the significant changes in the [Patent Reform] Act addresses the apportionment of damages clause. . . .

Because the high tech industry is built on thousands of small patents while the pharmaceutical industry typically would have one or two patents that covers years of research, pharmaceutical companies would like to see awards kept high to discourage patent infringement while high tech companies hope that by limiting damages it will also limit the huge number of so-called nuisance suits these large companies receive year in and year out.

Jim Greenwood, the President and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organzation (“BIO”), issued a press release on behalf of the organization expressing disappointment with the House vote.  The text of that press release stated as follows:

BIO appreciates the continued efforts by the House to improve the Patent Reform Act, but unfortunately cannot support the legislation passed today as it threatens continued biotechnological innovation.  We welcome improvements to the U.S. patent system, particularly those that increase patent quality, increase public participation, and provide additional resources to the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO).  However, the legislation that passed the House today and the legislation currently pending in the Senate do far more harm than good to our nation’s patent system.

While we are disappointed that the legislation passed the House, we were heartened that it did so narrowly and that there was strong bipartisan opposition to the bill.  This opposition demonstrates the serious concern of varied stakeholders — across many industries, research institutions and other interests — with the bill and the need for a more consensus-oriented approach to patent law reform.We look forward to working with the Senate to improve upon this legislation, particularly with respect to provisions relating to damages, inequitable conduct reform, post-grant review proceedings and PTO rulemaking authority.”

There is no word yet as to the official reactions to the House vote by our California biotech industry organizations, BIOCOM and Bay Bio, but their reactions are likely to be very similar to those of their national counterpart.

What will happen with patent reform when the Senate takes up its bill this fall?  We are likely heading for some heated debate.   The California Biotech Law Blog will keep you posted on the developments.

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