Patent reform push has new life in Senate

Patent reform push has new life in Senate
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Senate leaders on Wednesday introduced new legislation that would crack down on “patent trolls,” reviving a push for reform that stalled in the upper chamber last year. 

The legislation is aimed at combating what industry groups say is growing abuse of the legal system, with the “trolls” buying up patents solely for the purpose of extracting financial settlements.


With Republicans now in control of the House and Senate, advocates are hopeful the legislation can make it to President Obama, who has urged lawmakers to take action on the issue.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTurkey says soldier killed despite cease-fire in Syria Schumer calls for FDA to probe reports of contaminated baby food How Trump and Pelosi went from bad to worse MORE (D-N.Y.), who was involved in negotiations over the new legislation, said the bill “shifts the legal burden back onto those who would abuse the patent system in order to make a quick buck.”

“I’m hopeful we can move quickly and in a bipartisan way to get this bill passed in committee and on the Senate floor this summer,” he said. A hearing on the bill is already in the works.

The other lawmakers involved in drafting the bill were Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump slams 'very dumb' O'Rourke for proposals on guns, tax exempt status for churches GOP cautions Graham against hauling Biden before Senate Succession at DHS up in the air as Trump set to nominate new head MORE (R-Texas), Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyMulvaney faces uncertain future after public gaffes State cites 38 people for violations in Clinton email review Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings MORE (R-

Iowa) and ranking member Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOn The Money: Trump dismisses 'phony Emoluments Clause' after Doral criticism | Senate Dems signal support for domestic spending package | House panel to consider vaping tax Senate Dems signal they'll support domestic spending package This week: Tensions flare over Schiff, impeachment inquiry MORE (D-Vt.). The bill also has the support of other panel members, including Sens. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals Trump to award Medal of Freedom to former Attorney General Edwin Meese Trump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom MORE (R-Utah), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes MORE (R-Utah) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharPoll: Biden holds 10-point lead nationally over Warren Robert Reich sees Democratic race as Warren, Sanders and Biden: 'Everyone else is irrelevant' Democrats lead Trump by wide margins in Minnesota MORE (D-Minn.).

“As I look at the assembled people on the platform today, this is as close as you get to legislative shock and awe,” Cornyn said about the bipartisan co-sponsors.

The negotiations over patent reform date back a year. While the new Senate legislation contains provisions that are similar to a bill working its way through the House, it also contains crucial changes, according to a person familiar with the bill.   

The proposal would establish standards to curb court proceedings that can be used to run up the cost of litigation. Senators this month crafted a new way to limit discovery — a part of the pre-trial procedure — while early motions are resolved, the source said.

The bill also includes a provision on “fee shifting,” a way of requiring the losing party in a lawsuit to pay the winner’s legal fees.

The House version of the bill would require that payback unless a patent lawsuit is found to be legitimate. But the Senate version would only grant the fee shifting if the winner can prove the lawsuit was not “objectively reasonable.”

The Senate bill would also change how courts could go after the parent company of shell organizations that sometimes file frivolous suits and are not able to pay up. 

The issue of fee shifting has long been a hang-up for some Democrats. Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats dig in ahead of Supreme Court ruling on 'Dreamers' Senate GOP braces for impeachment trial 'roller coaster' Trump judicial nominee delayed amid GOP pushback MORE (D-Ill.),  and Sens. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenate Democrats want Warren to talk costs on 'Medicare for All' Meet the dog and 'sea turtle' who launched campaigns for office Senators demand briefing on Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria MORE (D-Del.) and Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDemocrats introduce SWAMP Act to ban meetings with foreign leaders at Trump properties Democrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group MORE (D-Hawaii) previously introduced a pared back patent reform bill without those provisions. 

When then-Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTrump thanks Reid for warning Democrats not to underestimate him Reid warns Democrats not to underestimate Trump Harry Reid predicts Trump, unlike Clinton, won't become more popular because of impeachment MORE (D-Nev.) vowed to block a patent reform bill from hitting the floor last year, the opposition reportedly came from the biotechnology industry, universities and trial lawyers.

“Last year, it was stalled by a significant person running the United States Senate. I don’t think there will be that stall this time,” Grassley said. 

Wednesday’s proposal also contains a provision that would protect end users, such as retailers, who are sometimes sued by patent-holders for using a technology the patent-holders do not manufacture. The provision would allow those companies to put off a lawsuit if the manufacturer is also hit with a lawsuit, according to the source.

The bill also would prohibit vague letters alleging infringement from being used in lawsuits. The authors say that provision would give incentive to companies to increase their level of detail in “demand letters,” which can often be the first step in litigation.

The Senate legislation would also make clear that sending abusive letters is a deceptive trade practice that can trigger Federal Trade Commission action.

— This story was updated at 8:14 p.m.