Patent reform legislation: is this year the year?February 16, 2007

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the possibility of reform of the U.S. Patent system. Given that the title of the hearing was “American Innovation at Risk: The Case for Patent Reform,” it’s easy to surmise that the general theme of the hearing was that reform is needed. Dennis Crouch at Patently-O provides brief summaries of the four panelists’ testimony. Several different patent reform bills were introduced last year in Congress, but none were ever passed. Some think that this is the year some form of patent reform will be enacted, but as of yet, no “reform” bill has yet been introduced (although there are some bills relating to patents that have been introduced). Time will tell whether the reform movement gets legs this year, although the inherent issues with enacting patent reform is that there are two powerful lobbies on opposite sides of the debate: The software and IT industries generally lobby for more restrictive patent rights, while biotech and pharmaceutical industries generally lobby for more expansive patent rights. These opposing positions tend to muddle the debate on patent reform when it comes up, and in past years has contributed to Congress not enacting reforms. The question is: will this year be any different? Press coverage of the hearings here, here, and here.

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