Patent bill back on Senate Judiciary schedule

The Senate Judiciary Committee has put Chairman Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) patent bill back on its agenda, with a markup scheduled for Thursday.

Next week’s scheduled meeting is one of the committee’s last opportunities to consider the bill in May, which some say it would have to do if it wants to get the bill to the Senate floor for a vote this year.

ADVERTISEMENT
Leahy’s bill has been scheduled for consideration since late March, but the chairman has repeatedly postponed the markup as he looks to find bipartisan compromise among the committee’s members over the bill to curb patent abuse.

While most the measures originally included in Leahy’s bill were widely supported, committee members — including Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) — have pushed for stronger measures that others on the committee say could weaken intellectual property protections.

Those contentious provisions include things like fee-shifting, which would require the loser of a meritless patent infringement lawsuit to pay the winner’s fees.

That provision has been pushed by the committee’s top Republicans, while some Democrats say they worry that kind of shift in the patent litigation system could close the courtroom doors to some inventors.

Earlier this year, many were optimistic that committee members were close to a compromise on this and other contentious provisions, but the committee has not taken up the bill since returning from recess in late April.

Those further delays have some worried about Leahy’s ability to get the bill across the finish line this year to match action in the House, which passed Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) bill in December.

In early April, Schumer said he was optimistic the full Senate could vote on Leahy’s bill this year if the committee considered it in April or March.

An aide said Leahy continues to work with committee members to find a bipartisan compromise on his bill, and listing it for consideration at next week’s markup shows that he is optimistic that they’re making progress.

According to one patent lobbyist, the committee’s work on the bill has ramped up this week, holding multiple meetings to work on the bill’s language, including with Patent Office Acting Director Michelle Lee.

According to one Senate Democratic aide, “its too soon to tell” whether Leahy can reach a compromise before the committee’s scheduled markup next week.

“We'll have to see what progress can be made over the weekend,” the aide said.