Hearings to be held this week on patent reform legislation

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Apr 13, 2015

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Patent reform once again is on federal lawmakers’ agendas.


This week, both the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold hearings.


On Tuesday, the full judiciary committee is expected to hear from various witnesses regarding H.R. 9, or the Innovation Act.


Witnesses include Michelle Lee, the director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; Kevin Kramer, vice president and deputy general counsel for intellectual property at Yahoo!; Robert Armitage, former executive vice president and general counsel at Eli Lilly & Co.; David Simon, senior vice president of intellectual property at Salesforce.com; and Hans Sauer, deputy general counsel for intellectual property for the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

The judiciary hearing is set to begin at 2 p.m. EST.


On Thursday, the CMT subcommittee will hold a discussion regarding the Targeting Rogue and Opaque Letters Act, or TROL Act.


A witness list hadn’t been provided as of Monday afternoon.


The CMT hearing is set to begin at 11 a.m. EST.


The Innovation Act, which was re-introduced in February, requires:


- Plaintiffs to disclose who the owner of a patent is before litigation, so that it is clear who the real parties behind the litigation are;


- Plaintiffs to actually explain why they are suing a company in their court pleadings;


- Courts to make decisions about whether a patent is valid or invalid early in the litigation process so that patent trolls cannot drag patent cases on for years based on invalid claims.  This prevents invalid patents from being used to extort money from retailers and end users;


- The U.S. Judicial Conference to make rules to reduce the costs of discovery in patent litigation so that patent trolls cannot use the high costs of discovery to extort money from small businesses and entrepreneurs; and


- The U.S. PTO to provide educational resources for those facing abusive patent litigation claims.


Also, when parties bring lawsuits or claims that have no reasonable basis in law and fact, the Innovation Act requires judges to award attorneys’ fees to the victims of the frivolous lawsuit.


The bill allows judges to waive the award of attorneys’ fees in special circumstances. This provision applies to both plaintiffs and defendants who file frivolous claims.


The measure also creates a voluntary process for small businesses to postpone expensive patent lawsuits while their larger sellers complete similar patent lawsuits against the same plaintiffs, to protect customers who simply bought the product off-the-shelf.


The TROL Act, which was introduced last Congress, aims to protect businesses while preserving the ability of patent holders to legitimately protect their intellectual property by increasing transparency and accountability in demand letters. It also would give the Federal Trade Commission the authority to levy fines on fraudulent practices.


The legislation, much like the STRONG Patent Act, which was introduced last month, has been called a more “targeted” approach than the Innovation Act.


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

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