Obama administration: No time to waste on patent reform

November 15, 2013

President Obama in the White House briefing room Nov. 14. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

With debate over patent reform intensifying on Capitol Hill, the White House is urging lawmakers to act on the issue before the end of the year. The White House is specifically touting a proposal from Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, that includes provisions to deter frivolous patent litigation, promote transparency in patent litigation, and invalidate low-quality patents.

"We appreciate that Chairman Goodlatte has shown leadership in putting forward a bill that shares the President's goal of encouraging innovation, not litigation, by reducing abusive patent trolls lawsuits," said Bobby Whitorne, an assistant press secretary for the Obama administration, in a statement to The Washington Post. "This is an important effort, and we look forward to working with him, leading Democrats and Republicans in the House, and Senators Leahy and Lee to advance legislation that enjoys strong consensus of both parties and the wide range of stakeholders calling for action this year."

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is Goodlatte's counterpart in the Senate, and he is expected to introduce patent reform legislation of his own in the coming weeks. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is a Judiciary Committee member who has emerged as a key Republican voice in favor of action against litigious patent holders known as trolls.

The White House statement follows a Thursday meeting on patent reform led by White House economic advisor Gene Sperling. The meeting included representatives from advocacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and technology companies such as Microsoft, Google and Cisco. Also attending the meeting were trade groups from brick-and-mortar industries that have been increasingly targeted by trolls.

Jon Potter, president of the App Developer's Alliance, attended Thursday's meeting. "The White House strongly reinforced the administration's commitment to patent reform being enacted," Potter says. According to Potter, Sterling reiterated his support for a package of reforms the White House unveiled in June.

Significantly, that reform package included expansion of the so-called covered business method program, a Patent Office procedure for invalidating low-quality patents that was created by the 2011 America Invents Act. The proposal has drawn fire from some patent-rich companies such as Microsoft and IBM. But it enjoys support from hotels, supermarkets, airlines and other brick-and-mortar industries that have been plagued by troll lawsuits in recent years.

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Brian Fung | November 15, 2013