Reuters is reporting that the House passed a patent reform bill that aims to address a lot of problems in the current patent system. The Senate has a similar bill up for vote sometime soon. While it doesn’t address all the points laid out by the League for Programming Freedom back in 1991, it does at least advance things a bit. Of course the final law that is (maybe) passed will probably be even weaker and more useless, as is usual for Congress. I’ll list some brief details in a minute, but at first glance when companies like Google, Apple, and Yahoo! all support it and companies like General Electric, 3M and Johnson & Johnson oppose it — I think that’s a good thing.
Ars Technica sums up some of the main points quite nicely:
- First to file: America will join the rest of the world and leave behind the current first to invent process
- Publication of all patents: most patents must be published within 18 months of being filed
- Damages: the amount of damages will be calculated based on the component being infringed instead of the value of the entire system
- Post-grant review: companies now have the chance to have a patent struck down within one year of being granted through a new review process
- Tax planning patents: patents on business practices that were intended as a way to reduce the tax burden — no more
- Venue shopping: infringment cases will no longer be filed anywhere the infringing company does business but only in the district where the plaintiff is headquartered
Well, hopefully this will cut back on the number of patent trolls trundling through the software jungles.