Schumer slams 'disgraceful' opposition to patent reform bill

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) pushed his patent reform bill Tuesday and called the bill's opponents “disgraceful.”

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In a heated moment during Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on patent reform, Schumer pushed for his provision, which would make it easier to challenge vague and broad software patents.

Schumer criticized companies that are resisting the provisions, calling their opposition to additional review “disgraceful” and “appalling.”

He characterized the mindset as wanting “my protection to be so complete and so great that I’m going to allow the patent trolls to continue.”

Schumer’s bill would allow companies being sued for software patent infringement to have the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office review the patent. The Patent Office could then invalidate broad and vague software patents, which are often used by “patent trolls," or firms that threaten and bring meritless lawsuits in the hopes of getting settlements.

The bill would expand a similar review process for financial product patents that Schumer wrote into the 2011 America Invents Act.

The Innovation Act — which was authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and passed the House last month — originally included a provision to allow for this additional scrutiny for software patents, but Goodlatte removed the controversial provision before it moved to the floor.

Patent reform advocates are watching to see if Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) will incorporate Schumer’s bill as an amendment. 

While advocates of additional review for software patents are hopeful that Leahy will follow through on commitments he has made to work with Schumer, opponents hope Leahy will try to minimize controversial amendments.

But Schumer on Tuesday said passing a patent reform bill without addressing low quality software patents would be “like treating the symptoms instead of the disease.”

Companies with valid software patents shouldn’t worry about the additional review, he said.

“The only people who are afraid of this know their patents aren’t valid.”

He also responded to critics of his bill who say the review process in the America Invents Act is too new to expand.

Schumer said his provision “has worked. Everyone agrees it’s worked.”

It has “only been operational for about a year,” he said. “It’s working well.”