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Patent reform debate returns to Congress

By Grant Gross
January 21, 2011 04:46 PM ET

IDG News Service - Coming efforts to revamp U.S. patent law could lead to less innovation and a loss in value for the companies that own patents, an executive at Qualcomm said Friday.

Roger Martin, a senior vice president and chief intellectual property strategist at the mobile technology vendor, took aim at some provisions in the just-announced Patent Reform Act of 2011 during a forum on patents and job creation in Washington, D.C. Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, announced Thursday that he and other lawmakers would introduce the legislation next week.

Martin focused on a provision in the bill that would limit damage awards in patent infringement cases. "Limitations on remedies from where they are now can only logically destroy value in patents, essentially wipe it out," he said. "It focuses too much on the benefits to the infringer, and not enough on the harm to the patent holder."

Leahy and other senators have been working since 2006 to revamp U.S. patent law. Several large technology vendors, including Intel, Microsoft and Apple, have been pushing for patent reform for years, spurred by several multimillion-dollar patent infringement awards from U.S. courts in recent years. Backers of comprehensive patent reform have argued that it's too easy for patent holders to win huge awards when a court finds that one small piece of a product infringes a patent.

Backers of patent reform, including several Republican lawmakers, have also complained that in many cases, patent holders bringing lawsuits aren't bringing products to market based on their patents.

The Patent Reform Act, to be introduced Tuesday, mirrors a compromise bill that the Senate Judiciary Committee announced last March, Leahy, the committee chairman, said in a press release. Congress failed to pass that legislation after opposition from several groups, including small inventors and small tech companies.

The compromise bill had support from President Barack Obama's administration, several labor groups and companies including IBM, Microsoft and General Electric, Leahy said.

The proposed changes in patent law would spur innovation and create jobs, Leahy and other sponsors said.

"Patent reform is a commonsense, bipartisan effort to protect jobs and bolster the economy," Leahy said in a statement. "This will be the first piece of legislation considered by the Judiciary Committee this year, and I hope the Senate will act promptly on this job-creating bill. Action by Congress can no longer be delayed."

The legislation would allow third parties to submit information about possible prior art while the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is examining a patent application. It would allow new challenges to patents awards throughout the life of patents, and it would set limits on how damage awards are calculated by courts.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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