Trade associations push for broader patent review

Patent reform bills should provide companies with a way challenge overly-board, harmful patents, a group of trade associations from various industries said in letters to the Chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.

The group of trade associations — ranging from tech groups to the American Gaming Association, the National Grocers Association and the American Hotel and Lodging Association — said in the letter that companies being sued by patent trolls should be able to challenge those patents at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

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The letter asked recipients to consider passing a comprehensive reform bill that targets broad, harmful patents as well as abuse of the patent litigation system. 

Under current law, companies being sued for patent infringement can ask the Patent Office to reevaluate a patent if it is related to a financial service. Patent reform advocates have pushed for that review process to be available for software patents as well.

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) recently introduced a patent reform bill with what many consider to be a small expansion of the patent review process, and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy is expected to release his patent reform bill in the coming weeks.

While patents can be challenged in the course of a lawsuit, allowing companies to challenge patents at the Patent Office would give “threatened companies a substantially less expensive way to challenge low quality patents,” the letter said.

Trying to prove that an overly-broad patent is “invalid through litigation can take years and cost millions.”

“Other programs for challenging patent validity at the PTO do not allow the PTO to consider whether the patent is abstract, vague, or too broad, common problems with the business method patents asserted by” patent trolls, the groups wrote.

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