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Judiciary Chairmen Intent on Curbing Patent Trolls

A number of bills are pending in Congress that aim to combat the rise of patent trolls, but the ones worth watching are the offerings from the two Judiciary chairmen.

House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., last week released an updated draft of his legislation, which would raise the bar for those filing patent litigation alleging infringement. It includes several transparency provisions for plaintiffs, while giving judges greater discretion to limit discovery and award legal fees to the victorious party.

More controversially, Goodlatte’s bill would expand a program at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that allows plaintiffs to challenge the validity of certain software patents related to the financial services industry for a much lower cost. A number of tech companies would like to see the program expanded to all business software patents, but many large patent holders argue the changes would reduce the value of software patents and discourage investment.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., has yet to unveil his version of patent troll legislation, but an aide told CQ Roll Call last week that Leahy’s legislation is expected to overlap closely with the principles outlined by Goodlatte. The aide said Leahy is likely to hammer out as many of the details as possible privately with Goodlatte before introducing his bill, which will not cover as many areas as the House version.

Leahy’s preference is to then work with Sens. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, to arrive at a package that will be able to pass the Senate in the bipartisan fashion seen on previous patent legislation.

While other lawmakers will seek to offer amendments and influence the debate, the legislation will largely be shaped before the two Judiciary chairmen unveil their compromise to the public.

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