Senate panel ‘close’ to patent deal

The Senate Judiciary Committee is getting closer to a deal on legislation to stop patent “trolls,” lawmakers said on Thursday.

“I know we’re not at the finish line yet, but I think we’re close,” Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSchumer: Congress must stop reported ZTE deal 'in its tracks' Hillicon Valley: Experts worry North Korea will retaliate with hacks over summit | FBI works to disrupt Russian botnet | Trump officials look to quell anger over ZTE | Obama makes case for tighter regs on tech Senate GOP sounds alarm over Trump's floated auto tariffs MORE (R-Texas) said at a committee meeting.

There has been “a lot of ink,” he added, “about divisions and the fact that we’re in an election year and nothing is going to get done.

“I think this could get done if we keep our nose to the grindstone.”

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For months, the Judiciary panel has been considering legislation from Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyMcConnell sets 'minibus' strategy for 2019 spending Dem senator mocks Pruitt over alleged security threats: 'Nobody even knows who you are' Pruitt tells senators: ‘I share your concerns about some of these decisions’ MORE (D-Vt.) and Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGOP senators introduce Trump's plan to claw back billion in spending Trump has exposed Democratic hypocrisy on prison reform Denial of services to same-sex couples can harm their health MORE (R-Utah) to fight off the trolls, which critics claim gum up the works of innovation by filing meritless lawsuits claiming patent rights are being violated. The panel considered the bill, called the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act, on Thursday, but put off a markup until next week.

“We have to get a bill done,” said Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Finance: White House planning new tax cut proposal this summer | Schumer wants Congress to block reported ZTE deal | Tech scrambles to comply with new data rules OPEC and Russia may raise oil output under pressure from Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — GOP centrists in striking distance of immigration vote MORE (D-N.Y.). “It’s one of the building blocks for the future of a job-growing America.”

Staff members have been meeting to discuss legislation in recent weeks, and lawmakers hoped that a final deal would be reached soon.

Stumbling blocks for the panel so far have been over whether or not to include a “fee-shifting” provision to the bill that would force losing parties to pay for the winner’s legal fees, a measure critics worry could discourage legitimate patent holders and inventors from bringing worthwhile lawsuits, as well as an effort from Schumer to make it easier to challenge weak software patents.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFormer US attorneys urge support for Trump nominee The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Republicans see some daylight in midterm polling Senate panel clears bill to bolster probes of foreign investment deals MORE (D-Calif.) told the panel that she was “a bit between sixes and sevens” on the bill, because she had the responsibility of looking out for different types of patent rights holder.

“I agree we need to do something about this,” she said, “but at the same time there are conflicts that call out that we’ve got to look carefully and not kill the incentives to invest in the startup companies and the small companies that are so often the ones that take the risks.”

President Obama called for the Senate to take action on a patent bill in his State of the Union Address this year. The effort comes after the House overwhelmingly passed the Innovation Act, from Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteGOP nearing end game on immigration votes Three House Dems say they'll oppose immigration floor vote over possible wall funding House GOP sets three FBI interviews in Clinton probe MORE (R-Va.), in December.