Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Senator Specter Leary About Patent Reform Bill

Senator Specter Leary About Patent Reform Bill; IPWatchdog

Patent reform will once again take center stage this week when Senators on the Judiciary Committee discuss the Leahy-Hatch patent bill in an Executive Business Meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 26, 2009, at 10:00 a.m., in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 226. With patent reform in the air and seemingly rushing through the Congress, it was believed that the bill would be voted on by the Judiciary Committee last week and sent on to the full Senate this week, but a group of Senators led by Arlen Specter (R-PA) delayed the vote in Committee. Specter said: “We need to do more to improve the language on damages which we know has been very vexing.” Specter also said that unless the damages language is improved he does not anticipate that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would call the bill up for a vote.

If Arlen Specter is to be believed there is no rush to ram patent reform through the Judiciary and at least some Senators are hoping for an industry consensus to develop prior to moving forward. Senator Leahy, on the other hand, continues to believe that there have been sufficient hearings, meetings and letters received, so watch for him to try and force some sort of action. Many Senators will be reluctant to move forward without a consensus though because they fear whatever vote they cast will leave some within their districts and States unhappy. With the high-tech computer industry supporting the bill and virtually everyone else opposed to the bill many in Congress will have to make a difficult decision and are virtually guaranteed to disappoint at least some important donors should the bill get to a full vote.

The primary patent reform bill being considered in the Senate - the Leahy-Hatch bill - would make it extremely difficult for a patent owner who successfully proves infringement to receive meaningful compensation for the infringement found. While the bill would ostensibly allow for no “less than a reasonable royalty for the use of the invention by the infringer,” the sticking point is in what the invention would be considered to be. Essentially, the Leahy-Hatch bill wants to narrowly define the invention and award damages based only on that which is taken by the infringer. On its face that seems reasonable enough, but what if the innovation taken makes the product sold by the infringer much more desirable?

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