WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, the sponsor of a patent reform bill that was slated for a markup Thursday, said the legislation will have to wait until after the spring recess.

On Wednesday, Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called the legislation a "complex issue" and said lawmakers need additional time to draft the "important provisions that have been the subject of discussion."

Those provisions focus on fee shifting, which requires the loser to pay the winner's legal fees.

"For weeks, members of the judiciary committee have been engaged in extensive bipartisan negotiations on legislation to address abuses in the patent system," said Leahy, D-Vt.

"We have made enormous progress, and we now have a broad bipartisan agreement in principle."

Leahy's bill, the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act or Senate Bill 1720, was set for a markup at an executive business meeting Tuesday.

However, the markup was pushed back to Thursday.

The senator's decision to hold off on the legislation yet again, until after the two-week recess, is now the fourth time the panel has delayed action on the bill.

"I have talked to many senators on both sides, and because I want to be sure everyone is comfortable with how these pieces fit together, I will circulate a manager's package the day we return from recess," he said, adding that the committee will consider the legislation the first week lawmakers are back.

S. 1720 aims to increase transparency in patent ownership.

In particular, under the bill, the person or organization that holds the patent and files an action in federal court would have to disclose any and all persons that have a financial interest in the proceedings, or that could be affected by the outcome.

And similar to other measures circulating on Capitol Hill, the bill targets the widespread sending of frivolous "demand letters."

More specifically, Leahy's measure would empower the Federal Trade Commission to consider such letters an "unfair and deceptive act or practice."

S. 1720 also allows cases against customers who are sued for patent infringement to be stayed while the manufacturer litigates the lawsuit.

The bill also would provide additional resources for small businesses that are targeted in patent infringement lawsuits, and it calls for various studies to be done by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, among others.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at patents@legalnewsline.com.

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