Skip to main content

Senate Vets Patent Act

The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday (May 7) appears to have secured baseline buy in from both sides of the patent "troll" issue for some version of The Patent Act, which would attempt to rein in frivolous patent assertions while protecting the legitimate rights of valid patents.

A House version of patent troll legislation has also been moving on that side of the Congress.

Divides remain over how to strike the right balance, but there is bipartisan Senate support for the bill and Sen. Chuck Schumer said he was confident that a version of the legislation before the committee would pass and make it to the President's desk this year.

The Patent Act, which is supported by broadcasters, retailers, realtors and others, would create a national standard for what is a deceptive patent demand letter, and give the FTC civil penalty authority to enforce that, as well as enforcement authority for attorneys general. The bill also protects customers of patented technologies by making manufacturers the litigators, say Intel over one of its chips rather than JCPenney for using it in a bar code reader.

It also shifts attorneys fees to non-prevailing parties under some circumstances, and makes it easier to recover fees.

Several senators, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), suggested the bill still needed work, as did representatives of 3M and Bristol-Myers Squibb, but there was a general sense that some tweaking was possible without blowing up what was billed as a carefully crafted compromise.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who worked on the bill, said it was a compromise, if still not a consensus, bill.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.