Will The U.S. Patent Bill Regain Its
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[May 13, 2014]
By Diane Bartz
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After flying
through the U.S. House of Representatives and winning the support of an
influential senator, closely watched legislation aimed at reducing
frivolous patent litigation appears to have stalled, at least for now.
Since at least early April, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy,
chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has been crafting an amendment
aimed at reining in "patent assertion entities," or PAEs, companies
that critics say use weak patents to file unwarranted infringement
The Senate measure, sponsored by Leahy and Republican Mike Lee, is
similar to legislation passed overwhelmingly by the House on
December 5. The White House has asked for legislation to combat
patent trolls, as the PAEs are sometimes called.
Leahy's legislation, introduced last November, has bogged down over
two provisions that would affect how infringement lawsuits are
written and when document demands, or discovery, would begin.
"It's somewhere between sinking like a rock and air going out of it,
like a balloon," said one patent expert following the negotiations.
That does not mean the bill is dead.
Leahy and his staff have been working on four major changes to the
legislation they plan to put in a "manager's amendment." The plan is
for the changes to be added to the bill at the same time as it is
voted on by the committee.
"I am continuing work with other members of the committee to address
constructive comments from both sides about the patent legislation
on our agenda," Leahy said recently.
The reform effort has strong support from big technology companies
such as Google Inc and Cisco Systems Inc, as well as retailers that
have been surprised to find themselves accused of infringement for
such practices as using off-the-shelf routers to provide Wi-Fi to
Two of the four changes on which Leahy is focusing have been largely
worked out, lobbyists said.
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One would make it easier for the winner of patent infringement
litigation to demand the loser pay its legal bills. A second would
allow manufacturers to step in if their customers are accused of
The other two, more troublesome, measures would change how
infringement cases are litigated.
One would require that complaints detail how a patent is infringed.
A second would require that most document demands be delayed until
after a preliminary hearing on what the patents do, called a Mark
Some industry groups, including the Biotechnology Industry
Association, which represents pharmaceutical companies, are
skeptical of those provisions because they would slow litigation.
Drug companies often file patent infringement lawsuits against their
(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Peter Cooney and Steve
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