Patent markup schedule clashes with congressional baseball game

Patent markup schedule clashes with congressional baseball game
© Greg Nash

A House markup of a patent litigation reform bill on Thursday is bumping up against the congressional baseball game. 

That would be just fine for Republicans, who would like to keep the Democrats' star pitcher, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), off the mound and in the Judiciary Committee room. 

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By noon, the committee had only addressed six of the more than 18 amendments before breaking for a short recess so Democrats could go to a meeting regarding a trade promotion authority bill being voted on this week. 

Votes are scheduled for midday, and the markup is expected to take up a good portion of the day. Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteFight breaks out between Jordan, Nadler over rules about showing video at Garland hearing The job of shielding journalists is not finished Bottom line MORE (R-Va.) asked members to return by 1 p.m. before breaking again for votes. 

"The gentleman is aware that we have this congressional baseball game tonight," Goodlatte joked at one point to laughter. "My side of the aisle would be very appreciative if we continue the markup during that game because of one of the members on your side of the aisle."

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said she would be "happy to work through dinner" but understood that members playing in the game at 7:30 p.m. would have to depart. She noted there would be time to "actually slip into the baseball game."

Lawmakers spent two hours voting on a host of amendments to the Innovation Act, which aims to crack down on "patent trolls," who buy up patents solely for the purpose of extracting financial settlements with litigation.

During that time, the committee voted to strengthen a new provision in the bill that would make sure trials over patent disputes occur in locations that have a reasonable connection to the infringement claim. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has consistently lamented the practice of "unreasonable venue shopping" by trolls to find a friendly judicial district, in particular the Eastern District of Texas. 

On a vote that divided the parties, the committee rejected a provision to water down a fee-shifting provision, which would force the loser of patent litigation pay the winner's legal fees if the challenge is deemed frivolous. Looking to mirror the Senate's language, Democrats were unsuccessful in requiring the burden to be on the winner to prove that the loser's suit was frivolous. 

The panel also voted down a divisive proposal to extend a process at the Patent and Trademark Office for rejecting low-quality patents related to the financial services industry that has also touched other industries such as software. Called the Covered Business Method review, it is slated to end in 2020, but the amendment would have extended it for six years. A number of companies including IBM opposed the amendment.