Obama administration signals support for patent compromise

The Obama administration has signaled support for a bipartisan patent reform agreement in the Senate.

That compromise, brokered by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), "improves the reported bill and incorporates critical elements of patent reform," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke wrote in a letter to the Judiciary Committee leaders on Tuesday.

The administration's show of support this week spells good news for the two lawmakers, who have long labored to craft their legislation in a way that satisfies tech companies and industry groups, not to mention other lawmakers.

Previously, those industry leaders carped that the bill insufficiently addressed damage awards for patent infringement, among other issues. Some pharmaceutical companies felt there should be no limits on those awards, while technology companies wanted significant limits.

While the two senators' changes somewhat address those concerns, skeptics do remain. House members are reportedly unhappy with the Senate's agreement -- an early signal the fight over patent reform is far from over.

However, Locke on Tuesday implored lawmakers to continue addressing their disagreements amicably in order to enact reform "this congressional session."

“Regardless of any issues that remain under discussion (between the House and Senate), there is a consensus that a strong patent system, including an appropriately funded and well-functioning United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), fosters innovation that drives economic growth and creates jobs,” Locke said in the letter.