News Clips

Jun. 4, 2015

The Washington Times: Patent reform bill headed to Senate floor, by Kellan Howell

This post originally appeared in The Washington Times on June 4, 2015.

Following a brief markup Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed its bipartisan patent reform bill designed to curb bogus lawsuits brought by “patent trolls.”

The PATENT Act, which will head to the floor after passing by a vote of 16-4 in committee, offers a more targeted approach to combating patent trolls — shell companies that buy up vague patents with the intent of collecting legal settlements in patent litigation from business owners — than the Innovation Act currently circulating in the House.

“This is a critical step forward in leveling the playing field to fight back against patent trolls that are sucking the life out of our innovators. I hope that this balanced and bipartisan bill will move quickly to the floor,” Sen. Charles Schumer, New York Democrat, said in a statement Thursday.

The bill, which was introduced April 29 by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley, Iowa Republican, and ranking member Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, would set a national standard for what is considered a deceptive patent demand letter, and give the FCC civil and attorneys general penalty authority to enforce that.

The bill also aims to protect customers of patented technologies by making manufacturers the litigators — meaning, for example, Intel would be the defendant for patented technology on one of its chips, not J.C. Penney for using that technology in a bar code reader.

Some conservatives have raised concerns that Republicans have not considered how the legislation will unintentionally affect property rights and hurt small startups and innovators.
“Along with life and liberty, the protection of property rights is one of the most fundamental principles of conservatism. Americans must stand up for patent protection and oppose any effort to undermine those rights,” Dan Schneider, executive director of the American Conservative Union, said Thursday.

Another concern critics have raised is the legislation’s fee-shifting provisions which would allow the courts to force the losing party in a patent litigation case to pay the winner’s legal fees, provided the court deems the losing party’s argument was unreasonable.