SAN JOSE, Calif. Patent reform could be introduced in Congress as early as Tuesday (March 3), as high tech lobbying groups on both sides of the issue turn up the heat. Sources close to the issue said the new bill will pick up where similar bills that failed to pass in 2008 left off.
On one side, big electronics companies want to curb what they claims is a rise of frivolous patent infringement suits and damages, often from companies whose only business is to acquire and assert patents. On the other side, smaller companies and individual inventors say changes in the patent system would cut incentives to develop new technology.
The bill comes in the wake of a number of court decisions that have addressed some of the litigation issues. However, neither the new bill nor the past court decisions address the rise of patent applications that has created a huge backlog at the patent office.
"We hear through various sources that next week is a likely introduction date," for a new bill, said one source close to the discussions who asked not to be named. "It's possible both House and Senate versions could be introduced at the same time, and the word is there will be at least one hearing on the bill, possibly in March."
All sides say dates have already shifted for when the bill would be introduced and they could shift again. "Things can change so we can't confirm anything until a bill is introduced," said a spokeswoman for the Senate Judiciary committee.
Earlier this year, another spokeswoman said introducing patent reform legislation is a high priority for Senator Patrick Leahy (Dem., Vt.) whose co-sponsored bill failed to win support in the last legislative session.
Big electronics companies are pushing hard for such legislation. Leahy held a $10,000 per plate dinner in Silicon Valley on February 17. It was hosted by the general counsels of Apple, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Google, Oracle, Symantec and Yahoo among others.
The companies are also members of the Coalition on Patent Fairness that backed the previous bill in Congress. The TechNet lobbying group that organized the fundraiser did not respond to requests for information about who attended the event or how much was raised.