- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A reform bill aimed at cracking down on so-called “patent trolls” is being rushed through the House without adequate debate on what it could do to smaller inventors, a bipartisan group of lawmakers said Tuesday.

Earlier this year Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, reintroduced the Innovation Act, which passed the House in the last Congress but died in the Senate.

The revamped bill passed the Judiciary Committee last week, 24 votes to 8.

The legislation is supposed to discourage plaintiffs in patent lawsuits from dragging out cases over vague patent infringements in order to bank on settlements.

The bill would require plaintiffs to disclose the owner of a patent before a lawsuit is filed and explain why they are suing, and would require courts to determine the validity of patent cases early in the process.

But opponents say Congress is over-correcting an isolated problem, weakening small innovators’ ability to assert their patent rights while lawmakers focus on reining in “patent trolls,” mostly shell companies that buy up vague patents with the intent of suing other companies for infringement.

“It’s a broad-spectrum weed killer, but it’s killing plants, too,” said Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican and MIT graduate who said he holds 29 patents.

“The problem,” he said, “is everything this does to a troll, it does to a legitimate inventor.”

Mr. Massie is leading the fight alongside Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, and Marcy Kaptur, Ohio Democrat.

Some conservatives see the reform legislation as a gift from the administration to Google, which stands to gain from a tightened legal patent process as it battles competitors such as Apple Inc.

Mr. Massie said larger companies are not dissuaded from ripping off ideas, because the law weakens a judge’s ability to freeze the company’s ability to ship products once they are caught.

He said the bill would also drag out the discovery process during litigation, making it more costly and onerous.

“The vast majority of lawsuits that would be affected by this law are very legitimate lawsuits, in which people who legitimately own their intellectual property rights are being robbed,” Mr. Rohrabacher said.

Kellan Howell contributed to this article.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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