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Supreme Court Action on Patents Leaves Room for Reform

Today, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held a hearing to examine recent Supreme Court cases in the patent arena. The hearing was carefully watched by opponents and supporters of the Innovation Act (HR 9), a bipartisan patent litigation reform bill introduced last week.

BSA and its member companies strongly support the Innovation Act. The bill is carefully crafted to curb abusive practices in patent litigation and to address asymmetries in the cost of patent litigation that provide incentives to assert weak patents and meritless infringement claims. Today’s hearing made clear that, while the Supreme Court has taken steps to correct imbalances in patent litigation, meaningful change lies beyond the Court’s role in interpreting existing law.

Legislative reforms included in the Innovation Act are urgently needed to address:

  • Fee shifting – Requiring parties that bring frivolous patent infringement lawsuits to pay the defendants’ attorneys fees and ensures that when attorneys fees are shifted, that the fees can actually be collected.
  • Delay of Discovery – Requiring courts to delay the bulk of discovery until after a decision establishing the scope of the claims has been rendered, thereby reducing litigation costs.
  • Discovery Cost Shifting – Confirming that a party seeking discovery should pay the related costs of the other side when the requested information is deemed beyond that necessary to prove the case. 
  • Heightened Pleadings – Requiring that plaintiffs specifically articulate their theories of infringement early in the case.

Patent reform opponents attempt to portray Innovation Act supporters as self-interested outliers who are not invested in innovation or who do not experience the balanced equities the patent system is designed to promote. You only have to look at BSA’s membership to see that simply isn’t true. BSA member companies include some of the world’s leading innovators and largest patent holders. Our members collectively hold well over 80,000 patents.

At the same time, the popularity of their products and services means that BSA member companies are frequent targets of baseless patent infringement lawsuits. As leaders in R&D investment, holders of substantial patent portfolios, and both plaintiffs and defendants in patent lawsuits, we deeply value the incentives provided by the patent system. We support legislation that preserves those incentives and avoids unwarranted calls to erode patent protections while deterring pernicious attempts to warp the system or abuse it.

BSA urges the House to move quickly to advance the Innovation Act, and we look forward to working with Chairmen Goodlatte, Issa and their colleagues to pass the bill.

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