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Lawmakers try to slow down patent reform bills

As two patent reform bills near floor votes in the House and the Senate, opponents speaking out in an effort to derail them.

A bipartisan group of eight lawmakers predicted that the two bills, the House Innovation Act headed for a floor vote this month and the Senate PATENT Act right behind it in the fall, don’t have the kind of broad support the bills had last year when the Innovation Act overwhelmingly passed the House.

“A lot of folks have changed their votes on this,” said Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), during a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

While opponents to the House and Senate bills are louder and better funded this year (groups took out a full page ad in the Washington Post on Tuesday), the House bill is still marked for a floor vote between July 21-23.

The group didn’t provide any numbers to counter the broad support both bills have already received from Congressional members and from outside groups.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House judiciary committee that advanced the Innovation Act in committee in a 24-8 vote, pre-empted the opponent’s press conference, releasing an exhaustive list of supporters for the bill, which includes a diverse group of industry association and companies, such as the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the National Retail Federation, The Direct Marketing Association, and the National Association of Broadcasters.

The Innovation Act and PATENT Act are aimed at curbing abusive patent troll practices, but the lawmaker opponents criticized the bills as too broad, hurting all patent holders, especially universities, start-ups and individuals as well as biotech and pharmaceutical industries and large patent licensors like Qualcomm.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), author of the STRONG Patents Act, said his alternative bill is “a narrow and targeted solution.” Given the recent changes to the Senate bill, Coons said he hoped Goodlatte might reconsider putting his bill to a floor vote. “There are big gaps between the House and Senate version; it’s far too early to move on floor action,” Coons said.