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Legislation stalls in the Senate over negotiations on damage rates

Patent overhaul spurred by the technology industry is in jeopardy of dying, after facing stiff competition from the pharmaceutical industry.

Backed heavily by the technology industry and financial services companies, the Patent Reform Act of 2007 sought to reduce excessive damages in patent infringement cases and change awards payouts to reflect the innovation of the patent infringed. Companies in the pharmaceuticals industry and others oppose the bill because they feel a reduction in damages would reduce patents’ effectiveness, making infringement less expensive for firms that get caught.

The technology industry, which relies a large number of patents, says it wants to change the law to deter “patent trolls,” or firms that hoard patents with the sole intent of enforcing them against infringers – regardless of whether or not the firm has any R&D resources or even a product utilizing the patent.

Formally known as S.1145, the Patent Reform Act opened a rift in the business world: biotech companies, labor unions, inventors, and capital firms squared off against the high tech and financial services industry, with companies like Cisco, Microsoft, Intel, and Bank of America fighting for the bill’s passage.

The House of Representatives passed the patent reform bill last September.

Republican senator Arlen Specter, one of the bill’s head negotiators, said lawmakers are continuing their attempts at reviving the bill, but note that it is very close to death. “The patent bill is, as you know, extraordinarily complicated. And its consequences are very, very far-reaching,” he said.

“Mistakes can be very, very costly. And that's why we're determined to get it right … time is not running out. It's April 16th. There's a lot of time left.”

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, the bill’s sponsor, said that negotiations stalled over “just a handful of words,” with Congress choosing to put it on hold indefinitely. An unnamed democratic aide told Reuters that the issue bill may be back on the table next year, once the senate has “more democrats.”

Mark Isakowitz, legislative strategist for the high tech industry, says the patent bill was “literally one sentence away from being done,” and settling on a rate for damages was the last remaining issue on the table.

“There are stakeholders on this bill that are completely intransigent and play by a set of rules where you don't budge,” he said.

A second aid told Reuters that he doesn’t think the bill is “dead,”but rather “on ice.”

“People are still talking to each other,” said another aide.

“When they completely stop talking, then it is dead.”



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RE: Please forgive me
By lompocus on 4/17/2008 3:25:34 AM , Rating: 5
...is to make everything so damned complicated no one knows what they're doing or what law is where.


RE: Please forgive me
By eyebeeemmpawn on 4/17/2008 8:24:45 AM , Rating: 2
... That way every legal action requires at least two parties to pay our members through the nose.

Call me crazy, but I think there should be an "idiot-in-a-hurry" rule for all legislation in order for it to be passed.


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