After a marathon markup session that lasted into the evening, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill targeting abusive patent troll practices. In a bipartisan 33-5 vote, the Innovation Act will now head to the House floor, where it has a good chance of passing.
House judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chief sponsor of the bill ,called its passage a "pivotal step toward eliminating the abuses of our patent system by discouraging these frivolous lawsuits."
Patent trolls, businesses whose sole purpose is to hold patents and pursue licensing fees or file infringement lawsuits, have become the bane of existence for nearly every business sector in the economy, from advertisers to retailers to banks and tech companies.
"Abusive patent litigation is having a significant impact on American innovation, needlessly costing small and large businesses alike tens of billions of dollars every year, resources that could have been used to creative innovative new products and services," Goodlatte said in a statement.
The bill raises pleading requirements for patent trolls, increases transparency in the discovery process by requiring patent assertion entities to provide more details about the patent, and shifts legal fees.
The House bill easily won passage after it was stripped of a controversial measure allowing companies being sued for infringement to request a review of some business method patents by the Patent and Trademark Office.
While Goodlatte has been pursuing legislation on the House side, Senate judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and ranking member Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced a similar bill that includes a provision that more directly affects patent troll demand letters, the key issue of a coalition of five advertising and marketing associations, including the 4A's and the National Retail Federation. Both bills are on the fast track and once a final bill is settled on, President Obama, who earlier this year called out patent troll practices as extortion, is likely to sign it.