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Patent Legislation Introduced (And Potential DOE-Related Tech Transfer Legislation Coming Soon)

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Greetings from D.C. In my last column, I reported that Representative Robert Goodlatte (R-VA-6th), House Judiciary Committee Chairman, had floated a "discussion draft" of patent reform legislation just prior to the government shutdown. That legislation, entitled The Innovation Act of 2013 (HR-3309), has now been introduced in the House. Chairman Goodlatte notes that this legislation will “eliminate the abuses of our patent system, discourage frivolous patent litigation, and keep U.S. patent laws up to date. These important actions will help fuel the engine of American innovation and creativity, creating new jobs and growing our economy.”

Goodlatte goes on to highlight the key components of the legislation as targeting abusive litigation, protecting the patent system, increasing transparency, modernizing fee shifting, providing greater clarity, and enhancing small business education.

Not all opinions are as optimistic. As one blogger notes, “Some of the changes include severe increases in the requirements associated with filing a patent infringement complaint; major statutory limitations on discovery; elimination of the patent applicant option of filing a civil action to obtain a patent under Section 145; forcing the USPTO to use standard claim construction (rather than BRI) in post-grant proceedings; introduction of a new Double-Patenting rule … [This] 50+ page bill is somewhat complex and, as [name of commenter] wrote, ‘[e]very organization impacted by patents must carefully study the Goodlatte bill for hidden features or suffer the consequences.’”

A copy of the legislation can be found here, and a section-by-section breakout can be found here. A hearing on the legislation was held Oct. 29. The bill is apparently moving at high speed, and many folks tracking it seem to think it has a decent chance of passing in the near term.

(Ed.: UPDATE - By a vote of 325-91, the House passed HR 3309 on December 5).

Potential DOE-Related Tech Transfer Legislation on the Horizon

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) has on several occasions publicly noted his intent to introduce legislation this term focused on tech transfer efforts at Department of Energy (DOE) labs. Most recently, in an article in Innovation Magazine, he said he will soon introduce legislation to “improve DOE’s tech transfer role” by “consolidat[ing] bureaucracy, streamlin[ing] contracting and us[ing] models that have proven successful.” He identified three major components of the forthcoming legislation. The bill will authorize new tools for the Secretary of Energy’s technology transfer office, enabling the DOE to better implement tech transfer responsibilities and measure progress. It will also authorize the DOE to create an Entrepreneurs in Energy Corps (E2-Corps) to support investments in entrepreneurs, mentors, scientists and engineers. Finally, the bill adapts an existing public-private partnership model used by the Small Business Association and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to increase access to investment capital.

At the moment, these comments are the only real indication of what the bill may contain. However, as noted in an interview the Senator gave on the same subject in August, some of these ideas track with suggestions emanating from a report published by a DC think tank (ITIF) last spring, focusing on the DOE labs and tech commercialization. A closer read of that document may provide more insight, or we can just wait to see what the Udall bill looks like when it shows up.

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