Senate Patent Reform Bill Delayed Yet Again

A bi-partisan Senate bill aimed at curbing abuse of the U.S. patent system has been handed another setback today, with Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announcing that, for the fourth time, consideration of the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act will be postponed.

Senator Leahy indicated in a statement that he’ll distribute a new version of the bill after the coming recess. The senator expects that “the Judiciary Committee will consider that legislation the first week [it is] back.”

While the delay will likely frustrate those in favor of the quickest possible reform, it appears that passage of the act faces little in the way of expected snags. The senator from Vermont claims that the bill has “broad bipartisan agreement in principle.”

What is stuck at the moment is the details. As has been reported previously, the sticking point between the two parties is a question of fines. Republicans want the law to require the losing party in a patent-infringement suit to pay the other’s legal fees. A reasonable idea, certainly. Democrats appear worried that some suits that do have merit may not be undertaken, provided the possibility of larger legal fees if an even reasonable suit fails.

Also, the idea of shifting fees to the losing party could induce individuals and less-capitalized companies to not pursue reasonable claims given that a larger company would have more resources, and thus could dump huge fees after a victory on the smaller party. A compromise appears close, according to reports, but elusive.

The two-week recess could provide enough time to get things in order. GIven that the bill is sponsored by both parties, barring complication, the act could clear committee by early May.