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  • Washington Highlights

    Senate Judiciary Approves Patent Troll Legislation

    Matthew Shick, Sr. Director, Gov't Relations & Regulatory Affairs
    Stephen Heinig, Director, Science Policy

    The Senate Judiciary Committee June 4 approved, 16 to 4, the Protecting American Talent and Entrepreneurship (PATENT) Act (S. 1137), aimed at curbing the abusive patent litigation practices of so-called patent trolls.

    Under the PATENT Act “fee-shifting” provisions, reasonable attorney fees will be awarded only if a court determines the position or conduct of the non-prevailing party (plaintiff or defendant) was not “objectively reasonable.” Fee-shifting would help businesses and courts discourage nuisance suits by patent trolls. During the mark-up, the committee rejected an amendment offered by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) that would have wholly exempted universities from the fee-shifting provisions.

    However, the PATENT Act “joinder” provisions for fee recovery would allow courts to exempt institutions of higher education when they are involuntarily named as an interested party in a suit.

    In April, the AAMC joined a group of six higher education associations in a statement praising the PATENT Act as a “substantial improvement” over the Innovation Act (H.R. 9), which passed the House in the previous Congress but stalled in the Senate due to concerns that it was too broad [see Washington Highlights, May 1, 2015].

    In 2014, President Obama called on Congress to address patent trolls in his State of the Union address.