reported last week, the House Judiciary Committee has
marked up the bill, and we learned yesterday that it will be
debated in the House of Representatives on December 4
– exactly six weeks after it was proposed.
That’s supersonic pace. Meanwhile, Senator Leahy
introduced a parallel bill in the Senate.
Why the rush? The reasons might be partly political
– out-of-favour members of Congress have identified a
populist cause – but the legislation also addresses
needs felt strongly by many companies and patent commentators.
That came over very clearly in the
interview with Allen Lo of Google that we published last
week and in a
blog post where Horacio Gutierrez of Microsoft said his
company backs the Innovation Act. And this week 60 IP
suggested six reforms that are very similar to what is
being discussed in Congress.
There are still many sceptics of course. But last
week’s markup suggested that we are getting close
to a compromise. Notably, the expansion of the CBM programme
(which Google strongly supported) has been removed. That always
seemed like a proposal that was ripe for negotiation: CBM is
too recent, and is still regarded with some suspicion, for an
expansion to be widely welcomed.
There’s still a long way to go. There may be
further contributions in the House of Representatives, and the
Senate still has a lot of work to do before we will see unified
legislation. But we can fairly confidently predict both that
there will be an Act passed in the next year or so, and that it
will to a large extent resemble Goodatte’s (right)
Whether the reforms eventually passed will address the
problems identified – or whether those who abuse
patent litigation will just find new ways round them –
is of course another question entirely.