Sen. Hatch says U.S. patent bill will pass

Senator Orrin Hatch announces the "Service America Act," which he is co-sponsoring with Senator Ted Kennedy, during the Service Nation Summit in New York September 12, 2008. REUTERS/Chip East

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senator Orrin Hatch, a leading proponent of a bill to overhaul the patent process, predicted it will pass and contain language making it more difficult to show misconduct in applying for patents.

The Senate version of the patent reform bill does not currently include language making it harder to strip a patent holder of a patent if they erred in the application process, known as “inequitable conduct” in the patent world.

But the Republican from Utah said that language would soon be added.

“They (other bill co-sponsors) left it out, with the understanding that they are going to work it out,” Hatch told Reuters after a speech at the National Press Club. “I think we’re close to it.”

There is an expectation that the new language would force plaintiffs to find evidence of real misconduct to win invalidation of a defendant’s patent, rather than a simple error in a complicated process.

The bill, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in late 2007 but failed in the Senate, would also reduce damages paid for infringement in many cases and make it harder for plaintiffs to shop for a friendly forum.

Asked if the bill would pass this year, Hatch said: “I think so. This is the closest we’ve come to really doing this job. I’d be very shocked (if it didn’t).”

The issue has been the subject of extensive lobbying, with many hardware and software companies supporting it, and big pharmaceutical firms and some other tech companies firmly against it.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Tim Dobbyn