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Tech Giants Pan Patent Reform Deal

With Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) set to unveil patent reform legislation as early as Thursday, the Coalition for Patent Fairness is coming out strongly against the proposed compromise.

After years of negotiations failing to come to fruition, the high-tech group says the recently announced agreement is worse than existing patent law.

“It’s fair to say the high-tech community is highly alarmed by the draft of the compromise we’ve seen,” said Mark Isakowitz, a lobbyist who represents the coalition. “The patent counsels reviewed the draft compromise and believe that it not only doesn’t accomplish our goals for patent reform, but actually is worse than current law.”

High-tech companies have been lobbying for the reform bill to limit damages in patent infringement cases, while pharmaceutical companies have argued against limiting damages.

The coalition had hoped the Senate would find a compromise on reasonableness standards for damages cases and on tightening the willfulness patent infringement standard, Isakowitz said.

The group — which is made up of most of the Silicon Valley high-tech companies, including Intel, Microsoft, Google and Oracle — is now looking to its champions in the House to try to moderate the proposal.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Silicon Valley champion Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) are all targets for making changes to the patent reform legislation.

It’s unclear how quickly Leahy will move to bring the bill to the floor. High-tech lobbyists said Leahy has started to talk with his counterparts in the House to negotiate a deal.

Not all tech companies are putting the muscle of their lobbying operation to kill the patent reform legislation. Microsoft, while a member of the Coalition for Patent Fairness, is not aggressively lobbying against the patent legislation, according to lobbyists involved in the issue.

The Innovation Alliance and the Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform have also made positive overtures on the bill.

The Innovation Alliance hasn’t taken a formal position on the draft of the patent compromise that has circulated, but the group’s executive director, Brian Pomper, said, “Uniformly, all the companies felt like this was a positive step.”

The Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform, a group of more than 40 companies including General Electric, DuPont and Exxon Mobil, was also supportive.

“The compromise agreement improves, clarifies and updates the patent system in a balanced, thoughtful manner,” Gary Griswold, chairman of the Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform, said in a statement.

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