Reform Bill for BillG?
Summary: A summary of early coverage about the patent reform bill, which proves useless to Free software
ABOUT A YEAR ago it was suggested that companies which are interested in a patent reform merely want to remove what’s a nuisance to them while resolving none of the issues affecting individuals and small businesses. That is precisely what we’re finding in the bill which has just been introduced
[PDF]. It’s hugely disappointing.
From the news:
Unfortunately, the stuff that I think is good and necessary in the bill, such as limiting damages to the actual contribution of the patented technology, are what’s considered “controversial,” whereas many of the things I think are bad, such as switching from a “first to invent” to a “first to file” system aren’t being considered that controversial at all. On the whole, this bill would solve some problems, while creating plenty of other problems, so I have a lot of trouble supporting it.
Patent reform legislation has now been introduced in both the House and the Senate. The provisions call for major reforms and mirror much of the proposed legislation from 2008. If anything, this is not a consensus Bill.
Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress on Tuesday introduced a patent reform bill (PDF) that aims to pick up where previous patent reform efforts left off.
The latest version of the bill also strikes the 18-month publication requirement previously included, since labor unions and small inventors expressed concern that patent applicants not seeking protection abroad would see their inventions used overseas without compensation. The new bill also adopts the language from the House version of the 2007 bill that would alter the post-grant review process.
The main event of the reform bill this go-round will be the debate over damages for patent infringement, according to IP experts. High-tech companies have been pushing for so-called “damage apportionment” — the idea that inventors shouldn’t get outsized payments if just a small component of a many-featured product, like a computer, is infringing on their patent….”Most of the real problems identified in [the previous] bills have been solved in the courts,” Lemley said.
Big computer and communications companies back the bill as a way to limit the number of patent infringement cases and damages they pay on them.
The legislation, introduced in the U.S. Senate Tuesday, is very similar to the Patent Reform Act of 2007, which died on the Senate floor last year. If passed, the 2009 version would change the way the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office works, bring U.S. patent law in line with global laws, and introduce so-called “reasonable royalty” provisions, which change the way damages are calculated and would reduce the likelihood of massive payouts for some patent holders.
There is also a discussion over at Slashdot. Had the Obama administration not chosen defenders of software patent to advise on these issues [1, 2, 3], then maybe — just maybe — there would be change here. As it stands, no thought is being given to laws that hinder/facilitate freedom and fair competition. What a waste of opportunity. People are not given the choice to decide on issues that really matter.
As long as the government is run in this way, nothing will change. Below we append a new (but reused) talk from Larry Lessig*. It touches on some of the same issues. His professional focus is copyright law, not patent law, but similar/analogous rules apply. █
* We regret that it’s too long to produce an Ogg from.