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From Staff Reports
The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday approved an overhaul of the patent system that high-tech firms had been seeking in order to slash the number and cost of the patent-infringement lawsuits that in the past have been just part of the cost of doing business.
The House voted 220 to 175 to approve the measure that would ease the deluge the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office must deal with, because it receives 450,000 patent applications a year. If it became law, the legislation would also make it easier to challenge patents before disputes even reach the court system.
Welcoming the vote were high-tech firms that must often combine the software and electro-mechanical gadgets of many different contributors. Most of these elements are protected by patents – and any one could spawn a court challenge.
But pharmaceutical companies and other industries whose products depend on just a few key patents worry the legislation will reduce their ability to punish infringers.
This represents the most-comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. patent system in half a century. Lawmakers are bracing for an even-bigger fight before the bill even reaches the Senate floor for debate.
Rep. Howard Berman, a California Democrat who co-sponsored the measure, said the overhaul was needed to improve patent quality and cut down on the number of patent infringement lawsuits.
"There are serious problems in the patent system. Many poor quality patents have been issued," he told lawmakers before the vote. "There are many abusive lawsuits filed."
But Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, told The Washington Post called the bill "fundamentally flawed" and argued that it would allow overseas patent pirates to declare open season on the innovations of American inventors.
"Technology thieves are licking their chops," he said before the vote.
Related News and Story Links:
House Approves Patent Overhaul Sought by Tech Firms.
House Approves Comprehensive Patent Overhaul.