US senators once again proved themselves sock-puppets for big US corporate interests by watering down a bill designed to protect innovators from patent trolls.
The legislation is sponsored by Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He said that it was a cure for the problem of patent trolls. One provision would have expanded what's known as the "covered business method" (CBM) programme, which would have sped up the method for the Patent Office to get rid of low-quality software patents.
This would have killed off the troll's main weapon, which is the general patent could be used to describe anything. But apparently Microsoft and IBM hated it. Under the programme they could not sue someone until the Patent Office considered if the patent was viable.
A September letter signed by IBM, Microsoft and several dozen other firms said that the law "could harm US innovators by unnecessarily undermining the rights of patent holders. Subjecting data processing patents to the CBM program would create uncertainty and risk that discourage investment in any number of fields where we should be trying to spur continued innovation".
But basically if a company had invested huge amounts of cash in low quality patents then the value of those portfolios would have dropped. So, Vole and Big Blue lobbied hard against the expansion of the CBM programme and it appeared that Goodlatte scrapped the provision to make sure his bill went through.
As the case was being debated, IBM showed its political muscle by escalating its campaign against expanding the CBM programme. An IBM spokesman said that while "we support what Mr. Goodlatte's trying to do on trolls, if the CBM is included, we'd be forced to oppose the bill".
But many US voters might be wondering what part of the constitution gave IBM the power to set democratic laws as if it were an elected representative. Still those who supported the bill can take comfort in the fact that the revised legislation would still take significant steps to curb abusive litigation tactics favoured by trolls. Sadly, it will not tackle the large number of low quality patents any more.