IT Industry: Time For Patent Reform Is Now

Members of Coalition for Patent Fairness, which includes Business Software Alliance, Intel, Apple, Symantec and Google among others, vocalized resounding support of patent reform following the Tuesday introduction of the Patent Reform Act of 2009, co-sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), which includes language aiming to crack down on patent infringement litigation and limit rewarded damages. A similar bill was introduced Tuesday in the House of Representatives.

During a media teleconference regarding the issue of patent reform, CPF members applauded the impending piece of legislation, which they said will give the U.S. economy a much-needed boost toward creating jobs by spurring innovation, and redirecting resources away from "frivolous" patent litigation.

Symantec CEO John Thompson said that legal defense against patent lawsuits costs Symantec millions every year.

"That's an enormous amount of money that could be applied to new innovative techniques," Thompson said. "Now is clearly the time for change."

Sponsored post

Michael Holston, Hewlett-Packard executive vice president and general counsel, echoed that numerous patents submitted by HP are challenged by what he called frivolous lawsuits, which divert "significant resources to fend against these cases," he said.

"We're supporters of a patent system that protects patent rights in a sound and wise way. At that same time, we're constantly the target of patent lawsuits, many of which are frivolous," Holston said. "That time could be much better spent innovating and developing products that will help the economy recover."

Specifically, panelists said that the newly introduced patent legislation walks a fine line between rewarding and protecting inventors for their innovation and ensuring that new entrepreneurs are not dissuaded from taking risks.

"Restoring this balance is key," said Bruce Sewell, Intel senior vice president and general counsel. "We believe the patent fairness act strikes the right balance in this critical area."

Proponents of patent reform also sharply criticized what they said was an outdated patent reform system, applauding efforts made by federal legislators to revamp the process.

"This is the time for action. We cannot afford to do without it any longer," said Robert Holleyman, BSA president and CEO. "BSA and all our members call upon Congress to enact meaningful reforms as quickly as possible."

"We believe the winds of change are really with patent reform," Holleyman added.

The patent reform bill has received criticism by some groups, including some labor rights organizations, that maintain that the legislation does not adequately protect small inventors.

"In the vast majority of this bill, 90 to 95 percent or more, there is widespread agreement about what needs to be done," Holleyman said. "We believe we should focus on those areas of agreement and try to reach resolution in those few areas where there has been disagreement."