Print 11 comment(s) - last by wempa.. on Apr 17 at 12:32 PM

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 spluurfg on 4/17/2008 3:39:41 AM , Rating: 1
I don't think that's the solution... then they'd just fight over where the boundary lies.

I think the issue is that it's all too easy to patent a vague idea with no real research or development behind it for technology patents (i.e. the concept of a PDA is patented, though the patent holder did essentially nothing other than fill out the patent) where as pharmaceutical patents are probably tougher (I doubt you could patent 'a drug that cures cancer' without any research or product behind it, which is sort of the analogy to the PDA example).

Furthermore, some patent trolls might simply ignore patent infringement until the infringer is too deeply invested in their product to do anything but settle.

I think the best thing to do going forward is to make technology patent awarding more stringent, but that would involve problems in itself.

RE: Please forgive me
By wempa on 4/17/2008 12:32:42 PM , Rating: 3
I agree. They issue patents for so many silly things. I think a big part of it is because they people issuing the patents don't really understand the technology. I remember reading about a company (either Apple or Creative) who patented the idea of organizing MP3s by ID tags (song, artist, genre, etc). I mean, give me a break. Don't library card catalogs do essentially the same thing for books ? Now, I certainly think if a company comes up with something innovative and useful like a new compression technique or unique algorithms for solving certain problems, then they should be able to get a patent .... just not on crap that is so vague or blatantly obvious.

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007
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