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U.S. Senate seeks better focus on House patent bill

Ongoing reform for patent litigation in Congress sees revisions and strong opinions from both sides

The concern in the U.S. over smaller entities being properly served by in-flux patent legislation is one part of the issue at hand for the Judiciary Committee session of Senate hearings titled "Protecting Small Businesses and Promoting Innovation by Limiting Patent Troll Abuse" this week. As Congress revisits the volatile subject of patent litigation -- one that strikes chords with both big and small businesses -- some Senators have approached the issue with caution and have invited a wide span of organizations including universities and individual inventors to weigh in. 

Small businesses protecting their intellectual property in the face of big enterprises that can afford vast amount of patent litigation is a historical problem and not limited to the U.S. But recent regulatory reform over the last several years has sought to address the issue of the little guy versus the big guy.

Congress and businesspeople were equally as divided over the America Invents Act, which passed in 2011, so one patent reform bill signed into law clearly does not ensure peace in this arena. The main debate lies around the provisions that the bill does not include in terms of patent infringement case management rules and various cost-shifting mechanisms, according to the report. But the revised bill in the Senate does cover practices that would impose some control over demand letter tactics -- where patent owners send letters to other organizations asserting their IP. Although the control over such practices itself is more of a brief slap on the wrist in the currently proposed bill.

The fact remains that larger companies and organizations are always going to have the leg up when it comes to patent litigation; the ones that have more funds are able to command more control over IP in the courtroom. This notion is what Congress is trying to amend, although the differing opinions on the gravity of industry, and the participation of small, medium, and big business.


Further reading:

Start-up founder victorious in patent lawsuit

Implications of GAO report on patent infringement litigation

Patents in Canadian energy abound

Contributing Author

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Juliana Kenny

Juliana Kenny is a contributor to, covering a range of topics including patent litigation, conflict mineral laws, executive compensation, and antitrust regulation. Juliana earned B.A.s...

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