|April 16, 2014|
Previously published on April 11, 2014
This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced it would delay its planned consideration of a patent-litigation bill —the third such delay in two weeks.
And as the delays extend, the bipartisan coalition behind patent reform appears to be cracking. Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who chairs the Judiciary panel, accused committee Republicans of failing to provide "constructive feedback" on a proposed compromise measure from Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat.
Sen. John Cornyn—a Texas Republican at the forefront of his party's pro-patent-reform bloc—shot back, saying that negotiations have "developed into a fight between Senate Democrats."
Dividing the two parties is a "fee-shifting" provision that would require the loser to pay the winner's legal fees in a patent-infringement case where the lawsuit is deemed to lack merit. Supporters say the measure is crucial to reducing abusive patent trolling—when companies buy cheap patents and profit from them by threatening infringement suits against others in hopes of settling.
But Schumer's proposal lacked the fee-shifting teeth Republicans want, sources say. And it's unclear how—or if—a consensus can be forged.
The House quickly passed patent reform late last year, as Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte quickly muscled his Innovation Act through committee before earning a sweeping bipartisan victory when it came up for a vote on the House floor.