Congress is again facing a test that will determine whether they stand with the American people or the K-Street lobbyists who represent some of the biggest corporations in the world, including the president’s favorite billion dollar corporation — Google.
That test could come as early as next week when the House considers the Innovation Act, legislation introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) to reign in abusive and costly “patent trolls.” Mr. Goodlatte’s bill includes heightened pleading standards and transparency provisions and shifts the costs of wasteful patent troll litigation to the plaintiffs.
There is little argument that “patent trolls” are costing Americans billions of dollars every year, stifling innovation and killing job creation. Yet there is considerable debate about something known as the Covered Business Method (CBM) review process, which would allow patents to be challenged anytime for any reason. CBMs are patents for “methods” or “operations” rather than traditional technological innovation.
The original iteration of Chairman Goodlatte’s Innovation Act contained a provision to make CBM a permanent program and expand the class of patents open to challenge. Many conservative leaders pointed out the harm of this provision in a letter to Chairman Goodlatte.
Rightly, Mr. Goodlatte struck the CBM language from the bill. With the contentious CBM provision removed, the Innovation Act passed the Judiciary Committee with strong bipartisan support and appears headed for similar bipartisan support on the House.
That comity may not last. Sources on Capitol Hill tell Breitbart News that Google is seeking to add an amendment that would throw ultimate passage of the Innovation Act in doubt. Google desperately wants CBM language put back into the bill because it would make it easier to “borrow” patents from small inventors.
When a patent is challenged through the CBM process it triggers an eighteen month review by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that would stop all infringement enforcement proceedings.
This means that patent infringers can continue to use a patent holder’s technology for at least eighteen months without paying for it and there is nothing that the patent holder can do about it. For companies like Google, a full year and a half means substantial market share, hundreds of millions of dollars and plenty of time to replicate the technology they “borrowed.”
America’s inventors and innovators need the Innovation Act to stop patent trolls. Adding the contentious Google language back into the bill would upset a strong consensus that is moving the bill forward and endanger a piece of legislation crucial for innovation and economic growth in America.
Given Google’s cozy relationship with Democrats in Congress and President Obama, Republican leadership should be on the look out for Google’s next attempt to hijack this bill. Google is used to getting what it wants, and is not likely to give in easily. The last thing Congress should do is to use an otherwise good bill as a vessel for crony capitalism to help billion dollar companies like Google.