On Wednesday, the Patent Reform Act of 2007 cleared another hurdle on its way to becoming law. The legislation was passed unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee and now heads to the full House of Representatives for a vote.
The Coalition for Patent Fairness, which includes heavyweights like Apple, Google & Microsoft, is giddy with the news. Some of these companies spend millions of dollars a year defending themselves against patent infringement lawsuits. ''We really feel that there's a litigation lottery," said David Kaefer, Microsoft's director of intellectual-property licensing, in a 2005 ZDNet interview , shortly after Texas republican Lamar Smith proposed the legislation. ''People roll the die and hope that their number comes up big.''
These reforms to the patent system are the most significant since the patent law was established in 1952. This new legislation works to reduce frivolous lawsuits, weed out junk patents''like crustless peanut butter sandwiches''and grants patents to the first person to submit the paperwork (an international standard we''re just now catching up to). The bill also reduces legal penalties by limiting triple damages to only the most egregious cases of patent infringement.