Senate patent markup pushed back again

The Senate Judiciary Committee's consideration of Chairman Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) patent reform bill, scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, has been pushed back again.

Markup of the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act, authored by Leahy and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), has now been delayed three times as committee members negotiate contentious provisions.

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While lawmakers generally rally behind the bill's goal of curbing "patent trolls," companies that profit from bringing and threatening to bring patent infringement lawsuits, members disagree over a fee-shifting provision being floated by Republican members of the committee.

That provision would require the losing party of a meritless patent infringement lawsuit to pay the winning party's legal fees and is being touted by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

Over the past week, Leahy has repeatedly said that he is close to a compromise with Cornyn and Hatch over a fee-shifting provision, but the committee has yet to produce an agreed-upon manager's amendment for consideration. Late on Monday, committee members were working off of compromise language put together by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

In a statement announcing the postponement of Tuesday's markup to Thursday morning, Leahy blamed Republicans for the delay.

“Yesterday Senator Schumer circulated a proposal addressing a few contentious issues related to abuse of the patent system. We have not yet received constructive feedback from Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee on that proposal," he said, noting the "extensive bipartisan negotiations over the past several weeks to find a compromise."

Leahy reiterated his commitment to finding "a strong and balanced package that is targeted to prevent abuse but not hinder innovation."

“I hope we can come to a bipartisan agreement by the end of the day so that we can mark up my Patent Transparency and Improvements Act on Thursday morning," he said.

In a statement, Cornyn pushed back on the idea that Republican inaction is to blame for the markup being postponed.

"Unfortunately this has developed into a fight between Senate Democrats," he said.

"Sen. Leahy may have given up, but I am happy to keep discussing this bill with the White House and a majority of House Democrats, including [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi who all supported strong fee shifting."

Hatch also denied that his party was to blame for the patent markup hold up.

"That's not true," he said in response to Leahy's statement. "I don't know why he'd say something like that."

Hatch said he is working to find a compromise with Schumer, who is "doing his best to try to bring everyone together and I'm doing my best too."

"We’ve got to get [the patent system's problems] solved, but we’re going to have to have some give on their side."

-This post was updated at 1:54 p.m.