WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Patent litigation reform groups admittedly can’t say what the newest version of a reform bill will look like, but they are fairly confident it will come to fruition in 2015.
The groups also don’t believe that the new makeup of Congress -- with a GOP majority in both chambers -- will have a dramatic effect on any proposed legislation.
“I don’t think it changes much, to be honest,” said Brian Pomper, partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and executive director of Innovation Alliance. “(Former) Chairman Leahy was already planning to return to patent legislation (in 2015).
“The key will be to find a balance with measures that go after abusive behavior without really hurting the vast array of good-acting patent holders who have expressed concerns that some of the measures proposed would in fact hurt them. I think that’s a common goal.”
Pomper describes his group -- made up of research and development-focused companies -- as one that believes the U.S. patent system has helped “create the greatest economy the world has ever known.”
He said the alliance has been very active in patent policy debates since about 2006, when federal lawmakers started work on the first round of patent reform -- the America Invents Act.
The group, though for patent reform, believes lawmakers should tread carefully before making changes to the law, which could make patents more difficult and more expensive to enforce.
That being said, Pomper said there is “a lot of energy” in D.C. to try to get something done this year.
“A lot of people both on and off the Hill will be working to try to craft something that can get broad support,” he said, adding there’s a “good chance” a bill will reach President Barack Obama’s desk.
Beth Provenzano, vice president of the National Retail Federation and co-chair of United for Patent Reform, formerly the Patent Fairness Coalition, agreed that the new Republican majority in Congress won’t change much.
“Patent reform has always been a bipartisan issue,” she pointed out.
“The bill sponsors from both parties and both chambers have said they intend to take patent reform up early (this year) and we look forward to working with them to achieve the strongest bill possible.”
Provenzano said she is confident a bill not only will pass but also will be signed into law by the year’s end.
“The President is strongly supportive,” she noted. “And the incoming chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee have openly declared their desire to move a bill in 2015.”
Adi Kamdar, an activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the EFF is “pretty confident” that patent reform will be one of the major issues of this Congress and is hoping it will pass this year.
The EFF, an international nonprofit, advocates for digital rights.
“It’s one of the few issues that the Republican majority and President agree on,” Kamdar said, pointing out that the Senate was the sticking point last year.
“Now that the Senate is Republican, there’s a decent chance a strong patent reform bill will pass.”
As to what exactly the legislation will include, the groups said that remains unclear.
However, they expect it to resemble previously introduced bills, such as H.R. 3309, introduced by U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.
“What we’re expecting is something very similar to the Innovation Act,” Kamdar said.
Pomper said he expects much of the same, at the start at least.
“We are very supportive of changes to the law that go after abusive tactics in ways that don’t burden the responsible enforcement of patent rights,” he said. “We think there is every reason to believe that Congress can achieve that balance.”
He said the alliance also would like to see Congress end the diversion of fees from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The PTO is unique in that, compared to other federal agencies, it operates on fees collected by its users and not on taxpayer dollars.
For years, Congress has diverted about 10 percent of the fees the PTO collects to the U.S. general treasury.
Provenzano said any new reform bill should minimally include provisions to protect customers and end users of products from unfair infringement accusations; reform the discovery process; and require patent trolls who bring “truly” frivolous cases to pay the attorney’s fees of those they sue.
She said her groups also will seek provisions that require patent demand letters to include certain minimal information; require trolls who file lawsuits to include detailed explanations of the infringement they are alleging; and ensure there are better, less costly administrative alternatives to litigation for re-examining questionable patents.
“The bill sponsors will decide what the legislation will look like,” she said.
“But we will continue to push for comprehensive reform that makes the patent troll business model unprofitable and unattractive.”
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.