The patent reform debate is often characterized as a battle between tech companies and those in the pharmaceutical industry. However, not all tech companies are in lock step with each other, and Tech LawForum was fortunate enough to speak with a couple of Innovation Alliance members. In case our readers were not aware, the Innovation Alliance is a lobbyist group that was formed in response to all of the patent reform activities on capitol hill. Many are familiar with the Coalition for Patent Fairness, which counts Intel, Apple, and Cisco among its vast membership. The IA was formed as a response to the Coalition, and serves as a mouthpiece to voice the concerns of the many smaller firms here in the Bay Area. Earlier this week, the Innovation Alliance joined PhRMA (the largest lobbyist group of pharmaceutical companies) and companies from many other fields as signatories on a letter(PDF) written to Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell voicing their displeasure with S. 1145 (a.k.a. the Senate version of the Patent Reform Act of 2007). The letter articulates the problems with the bill as such:
While we welcome efforts to make improvements to the U.S. patent system, we must make clear our opposition to S. 1145 as approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. This bill contains provisions that will create uncertainty and weaken the enforceability of validly issued patents. Some of the proposed reform provisions, such as an expanded apportionment of damages, an indefinite post-grant opposition process, excessive venue restrictions, burdensome and expensive mandatory search requirements, and unworkable interlocutory appeal provisions, pose serious negative consequences for continued innovation and American technological leadership in a competitive global economy. In addition, the bill codifies the current inequitable conduct doctrine rather than to make broadly supported reforms to eliminate litigation abuse of the doctrine and gain increases in patent quality.
The opinion was not blithely submitted, as the one page letter was accompanied by 16 more pages listing over 430 companies opposing the legislation. According to an Innovation Alliance press release:
The letter is signed by innovation leaders from every U.S. state and the District of Columbia in fields as far ranging as agriculture; alternative energy; biotechnology; chemicals; computer hardware, software, networking; cosmetics; entertainment; financial services; food/beverage; health care; heavy industry; life sciences; manufacturing; medical devices; material science; nanotechnology; optics; security; semiconductors; space systems; startup incubation; telecommunications, venture capital and Web-based businesses.