Patent Reform’s Done, So Let the Job Valhalla Commence!

(photo: Alexandre Dulaunoy)

In a way, I’m not sure why the President made a jobs speech to Congress yesterday at all. Clearly all of our job worries have been solved with the passage of a patent reform bill:

As expected, the U.S. Senate passed patent reform legislation by a vote of 89 to 9 on Thursday evening, paving the way for the bill to be signed into law by President Barack Obama. But the bill, which has spent the better part of a decade working its way through the legislature, couldn’t be approved without one last set of votes on giveaways to entrenched special interests.

It has taken Congress more than seven years to pass patent reform, and the corporate fight that sprung up around the bill meant rich rewards for those on Capitol Hill. Millions of dollars in campaign contributions have poured in over the course of the debate, with nearly every conceivable corporate interest weighing in, from Wall Street banks and drug companies to Silicon Valley tech giants and Texas trial lawyers.

President Obama has repeatedly called the patent bill an easy job-creator, though that assertion has been roundly rejected by patent experts.

It should be noted that all those votes on giveaways to entrenched special interests failed last night, which is why this is off to the President. The Senate-passed version of the bill is now identical to the House version. That doesn’t mean there aren’t loads of giveaways tucked into the bill: one provision basically bails out a law firm.  [cont’d.]

If patent reform has anything to do with facilitating the demise of patent trolls, that would be positive. But Tim Lee calls it “mostly pointless”, and it’s hard not to agree.

Congress has been wrestling with patent reform legislation since 2005. When we last took an in-depth look at the issue in 2008, we concluded that the legislation then under consideration was not the kind of serious patent reform the nation needs. This year’s legislation is weaker still.

For example, the 2008 Patent Reform Act would have reduced the profitability of litigation by reforming how damages for infringement are calculated. These provisions did not make it into the legislation that is now on its way to the Oval Office. Also out are limitations on forum shopping, the practice by which plaintiffs sue in obscure, patent-friendly jurisdictions such as the Eastern District of Texas. No wonder the experts we talked to in last month’s Ask Ars story didn’t think America Invents would do much good […]

In short, the long-running battle over patent reform legislation has ended in a standstill. The only winners are the large companies—which supported the switch to “first to file” and other procedural changes—and the patent office itself, which will enjoy a larger budget and greater autonomy. The rest of us lost, because almost all the serious reform ideas wound up on the cutting room floor.

Sen. Maria Cantwell called the bill “a big corporation patent giveaway that tramples on the right of small inventors.” Zach Carter has the definitive work on the patent bill. Needless to say, calling this a jobs bill, or really anything but a mediation between corporate interests and a full employment act for lobbyists and lawyers, is a massive overstatement.