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House, Senate Consider Patent Troll Legislation

October 31, 2013—The House Judiciary Committee Oct. 29 held a hearing on legislation to address so-called “patent trolls.” The term refers to entities that purchase patents for the express purpose of filing patent infringement lawsuits against companies to get licensing fees or a legal settlement, without actually making any goods or providing any services.

House Judiciary Chair Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) and a bipartisan group of lawmakers Oct. 23 introduced the Innovation Act (H.R. 3309) in an attempt to curb this abusive patent litigation. Co-sponsors include committee members Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Howard Coble (R-N.C.), and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.). 

Despite bipartisan support, the bill faces immediate hurdles as Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C) expressed concerns over mandating new patent litigation changes before the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has had a chance to implement fully the 2011 Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (P.L. 112-29). 

Reps. Conyers and Watt Oct. 28 introduced their own legislation (H.R. 3349) designed to help PTO implement existing laws without new policy changes. Witnesses testified in support of allowing PTO to retain all of the fees it collects, as proposed in H.R. 3349.

Robert Armitage, J.D., former general counsel, Eli Lilly & Co., testified at the hearing in support of H.R. 3309 among other changes to the patent system. In his written testimony, Mr. Armitage posited that neither an expansion of prior user rights nor changes to the “grace period” under the new first-inventor-to-file system were ripe for inclusion in proposed reform legislation. Mr. Armitage stated that the patent community had not reached a consensus on a path forward on either issue, noting universities as an important party to these discussions.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) Oct. 30 introduced the Patent Litigation Integrity Act (S. 1612), which grants courts the ability to award legal fees in any civil patent litigation. Additionally, S. 1612 would allow defendants to request that the party alleging infringement post a bond sufficient to cover a court award of reasonable fees and other expenses.

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is reportedly crafting a committee bill on abusive patent lawsuits.


Matthew Shick, JD
Director, Gov't Relations & Regulatory Affairs
Telephone: 202-862-6116

Stephen Heinig
Director, Science Policy
Telephone: 202-828-0488


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Washington Highlights, a weekly electronic newsletter, features brief updates on the latest legislative and regulatory activities affecting medical schools and teaching hospitals.

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Jason Kleinman
Sr. Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations
Telephone: 202-903-0806