WASHINGTON Jan 28 President Barack Obama called
for Congress to pass legislation aimed at reining in what many
companies complain are proliferating and frivolous patent
Tech companies have long complained about the lawsuits,
often filed by companies derisively called "patent trolls," but
retailers, coffee shops, banks and others have since been
accused of infringement and joined the ranks of those lobbying
lawmakers for protection.
The president announced a blueprint for reducing the number
of lawsuits in June and reiterated support for the effort on
"And let's pass a patent reform bill that allows our
businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly, needless
litigation," said Obama in his State of the Union address.
There are a range of bills before Congress on the matter but
two are seen as having the best chance of becoming law.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Dec. 5 to approve
a bill sponsored by Robert Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican,
that encourages judges hearing patent cases to award fees to the
winner of an infringement lawsuit.
The bill also requires companies filing infringement
lawsuits to detail which patent is infringed - something that
does not now reliably happen.
Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee,
has sponsored similar legislation. Differences between the House
and Senate bills would need to be ironed out before patent
legislation could become law.
Technology companies largely support the proposed measures,
including Cisco Systems Inc, Apple Inc,
International Business Machines Corp, Google Inc
and other powerhouses.
The Association for Competitive Technology, which represents
small tech companies, also backs the legislation.
But others worry that the proposed legislation could hurt
small companies whose patents are genuinely infringed. They fear
the measure would tip the judicial balance in favor of
defendants in patent infringement lawsuits.