[January 29, 2014]WASHINGTON (Reuters) — President
Barack Obama called for Congress to pass legislation aimed at reining in
what many companies complain are proliferating and frivolous patent
Tech companies have long complained about the lawsuits, often
filed by companies derisively called "patent trolls," but retailers,
coffee shops, banks and others have since been accused of
infringement and joined the ranks of those lobbying lawmakers for
The president announced a blueprint for reducing the number of
lawsuits in June and reiterated support for the effort on Tuesday
"And let's pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to
stay focused on innovation, not costly, needless litigation," said
Obama in his State of the Union address.
There are a range of bills before Congress on the matter but two are
seen as having the best chance of becoming law.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted on December 5 to approve a
bill sponsored by Robert Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, that
encourages judges hearing patent cases to award fees to the winner
of an infringement lawsuit.
The bill also requires companies filing infringement lawsuits to
detail which patent is infringed — something that does not now
Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has
sponsored similar legislation. Differences between the House and
Senate bills would need to be ironed out before patent legislation
could become law.
Technology companies largely support the proposed measures,
including Cisco Systems Inc, Apple Inc, International Business
Machines Corp, Google Inc and other powerhouses.
The Association for Competitive Technology, which represents small
tech companies, also backs the legislation.
But others worry that the proposed legislation could hurt small
companies whose patents are genuinely infringed. They fear the
measure would tip the judicial balance in favor of defendants in
patent infringement lawsuits.