Legal expert says patent reform legislation bridges partisan divide
NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) -- The head of a New York-based legal policy center argues that passing a patent reform bill will pave the way for other upcoming, critical legislative battles. Isaac Gorodetski, the deputy director of the Center for Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute, wrote in a Jan. 31 opinion piece for the Washington Examiner that patent litigation reform provides a "rare opportunity for compromise." "Bipartisan passage of patent lawsuit reform could prove critical in building goodwill and setting a precedent in advance of the upcoming battles on immigration, the debt ceiling and minimum wage," he wrote. "The President can blunt Republican criticism of his promises to bypass Congress if they don't pass his recommended reforms by leading constructively in one area of common agreement." In December, the Innovation Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., was approved in an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 325-91. It has since been sent to the Senate, where lawmakers are carefully considering it. A similar bill has been introduced by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. That measure, the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act, remains in committee. Unlike Goodlatte's legislation, Leahy's bill does not include the provisions that would force patent infringement case management rules on the district courts or procedures as to pleading, discovery timing and limits, cost-shifting related to discovery or loser-pays fee shifting. Some argue that Leahy's version is the better approach. While others contend that any additional legislation -- the America Invents Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2011 -- will end up hurting the nation's inventors and small businessmen and feeding so-called patent trolls. Gorodetski, himself, admits the Innovation Act isn't perfect. "For instance, it would not eliminate 'forum shopping' in which patent lawyers seek out lawsuit-friendly jurisdictions like the (U.S. District Court for the) Eastern District of Texas," he wrote. The federal court is a popular venue for patent infringement cases because of its set of local rules for such cases and rather fast trial settings. However, he says, the Goodlatte bill would "significantly alleviate" abusive patent litigation's "downward pressure" on innovation and entrepreneurship. Gorodetski, who helped author the Center for Legal Policy's 2013 report "Trial Lawyers Inc.: Patent Trolls," notes that the public is "understandably frustrated" by the current gridlock in Congress. But patent reform, he says, bridges that partisan divide. "By clearing away the lawsuits that have become an impediment to innovation and a threat to small business -- and thus an unnecessary hurdle to economic recovery -- the President and Congress can give Americans across the political spectrum a reason to stand up and applaud," he wrote. From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.