Schumer flexible on software patent scrutiny

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday that he wants to create additional scrutiny for software patents, but he would be open to a Senate patent reform bill without that provision.

“My goal is to get a good bill done. I’m not wedded to any one way to do it,” Schumer said during a Google Hangout hosted by The Internet Association.

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As the Senate Judiciary Committee considers legislation from Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to curb patent trolls — or companies that profit by bringing and threatening to bring frivolous patent infringement lawsuits — Schumer has pushed for a provision that would allow companies being sued for software patent infringement to challenge the validity of the patent at the Patent Office.

Advocates of Schumer’s provision say the additional scrutiny would cut down on broad and vague software patents that have become the weapon of choice for patent trolls.

“I’m working as hard as I can to get our provision in the bill, but there are other things that can be done,” Schumer said Tuesday.

He pointed to other reform measures being considered by the committee, including one to increase transparency in patent lawsuits and another that would require the loser of a frivolous patent lawsuit to pay the winner’s fees.

“We need to have some reforms that protect the smaller companies as well as the larger companies,” he said.

But Schumer said he would push back on a patent bill that does not go far enough to curb lawsuits and threats from patent trolls.

The Senate shouldn’t “do a bill that does nothing, that politicians can put their names on,” because that kind of bill “inhibits doing something real,” he said.

“I think the groups watching will feel pretty strongly about that too.”

Ultimately, Schumer said he is optimistic that the Senate can build off of momentum from the House, which passed Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) Innovation Act last year, to pass a meaningful patent reform.

“I think we are really, really close to a bipartisan agreement that can pass the Senate,” he said.

He encouraged observers to “ask your legislator, your congressman and your senator in particular … to get real patent reform done that stops the trolls early on and as they litigate.”

Schumer said the Senate will have time to pass a patent-reform bill, before the chamber adjourns in October if the Judiciary Committee can agree on legislation in the next two months.

Constituents should urge their legislators "not to let the usual political B.S. get in the way," he said.