Monday, February 05, 2007

Rep. Boucher (D-Va.) Promises "Early" Passage of Patent Reform In 2007

Last Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) predicted before an early morning crowd at the State of the Internet Conference that the tech industry's interest in patent reform would be rewarded early in the 110th Congress.

Reports stated that, hours after the conference, Boucher and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) (re)introduced the Patents Depend on Quality Act of 2006 (PDQ Act). Boucher said hearings would begin this month, and he hoped for a full floor vote by March or April.

The reports don't provide any further detail on the proposed law (and Thomas and GovTrack don't show any updates yet), but it is presumed that the current PDQ Act is substantially the same as H.R. 5096 introduced in April of '06 (see text here).

For those keeping track, the PDQ Act is considered to be the narrowest of various reform acts that were paraded through Congress in '05 (H.R. 2795) and '06 (S.3818). So far, none of the proposed laws have seen the light of day.

Maybe the third time's the charm for this bill. As mentioned above, this bill is a retread of H.R. 5096, which, in turn, is a retread of H.R. 5299 ("Patent Quality Assistance Act of 2004"). In short, the PDQ Act proposes many of the more widely-accepted aspects of patent reform: post-grant review within the PTO, 3rd-party submission of prior art following publication, and removal of the estoppel provision for inter partes reexamination. However, the PDQ Act does contain the controversial "second window" for post-grant review, which may cause some problems (see more from Matt Buchanan's blog post here).

Andrew Noyes, who posts on the Tech Daily Dose blog for the National Journal's Technology Daily, was present at the conference in which Boucher made his remarks, and adds the following tidbits:

Aaron Cooper, a staffer for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said his boss and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, will likely introduce a bill similar to the one they sponsored last year (S.3818).

But Ryan Triplette, who works for the panel's Ranking Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said her boss wants in on the action. He was not at the negotiating table last year so "we're not as wedded to S.3818," she said. The issue is a top priority for Specter. "This is something that can get done this Congress," Triplette

In the House, Reps. Rick Boucher, D-Va., and Howard Berman, D-Calif.,
will lead the charge. Amy Levine, a staffer for Boucher, said "you will see real initiative and a real drive to get patent reform legislation through."

Branden Ritchie, who works for Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., agreed that lawmakers "moved the ball pretty far" last year through a series of hearings and legislation. "We're looking forward to doing that again this time."

See report from here.

On a side-note, Andrew also blogged about copyright issues discussed at the conference, and particularly about user-generated content. A panel featuring Jim DeLong of the Progress & Freedom Foundation, Pam Samuelson of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology and Steven Starr from started their session off with a video called "Brokeback to the Future," which induced more than a few chuckles in the audience - to view the video, click here.

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