Save the Covered Business Method program expansion

by on November 19, 2013 · 0 comments

The Hill is reporting that Rep. Goodlatte, under pressure from “companies like Microsoft, IBM and Apple,” is planning to drop the provision in his patent reform bill that expands the Covered Business Method (CBM) program. Mike Masnick also has commentary.

Julie Samuels explains CBM review:

The “Covered Business Method Review” (CBM) was first introduced in 2011’s America Invents Act. It created, for a limited time, an additional avenue of patent review at the Patent Office. Unfortunately, as drafted, it really was only intended to apply to patents that deal with financial institutions.

CBM is a good program. First, we have long favored the use of Patent Office procedure to challenge patents; it is much cheaper and much quicker than going to court. Second, it allows for more ways to challenge patents than other types of Patent Office review—making it a more robust procedure that promises to knock out more improvidently granted patents. Third, it automatically puts concurrent patent litigation between the parties on hold.

Putting ongoing litigation on hold is no small thing. Patent litigation often costs each side well into the millions of dollars, while CBMs cost just a fraction of that. This means that more people will be in a position to challenge bad patents and fight back against the trolls who wield those patents.

The original Goodlatte bill would have expanded CBM review to patents beyond the financial sector.

From a public choice perspective, it is unsurprising that finance would have better patent law than the rest of the economy: finance is a concentrated industry that can go up politically against and offset another concentrated industry, the patent bar. But non-finance covered business method patents are asserted against all kinds of companies, for practices as banal as retrieving data from a database (not joking: “A method of retrieving information from a database record having plural fields“) or selling things online (“An apparatus to market and/or sell goods and/or services over an electronic network“). The fact that the victims of these patent assertions are dispersed throughout the economy means that they are not organized enough to effectively oppose the patent interests that are lobbying against the CBM program expansion.

Still, it is very disappointing that Rep. Goodlatte is caving to such lobbying. I already thought that his bill did not go far enough; now it goes even less far.

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