Senate Committees to Move Forward on Patent Bills

March 19, 2014

pic-patent-licenseUpon returning from recess, the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee is expected to markup a series of bills, including the Transparency in Assertion of Patents Act (S. 2049). S. 2049 was introduced by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and is aimed at addressing the issue of bad faith demand letters – a primary concern of NSBA and its members. The bill was originally scheduled for markup a couple of weeks ago, but has been postponed twice to ensure that all stakeholders are heard and concerns are addressed.

In addition to the aforementioned S. 2049, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to move forward (in the coming weeks) with the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act (S. 1720). S. 1720 was introduced by Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Nov. 18, 2013 and includes a number of issues of interest and concern to NSBA, including patent transparency and customer stay. The Senate Judiciary Committee has taken a similar path as the Senate Commerce Commerce with its patent reform legislation – something NSBA greatly appreciates.

Last year, NSBA sent a letter to Members of the U.S. House of Representatives opposing the Innovation Act, which passed the House on Dec. 5, 2013 by a margin of 325-91.  Like the Innovation Act, the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act and the Transparency in Assertion of Patents Act seek to address the purported increase in patent infringement litigation. However, since their introduction, several concerns have been raised about the potential impact that certain proposed provisions would have on individual inventors and small firms. A good example of these concerns and the complexity of the issue as such relates to small businesses can be viewed in a recent letter from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Advocacy – one of the small-business community’s staunchest advocates.

While supportive of reasonable efforts and reforms to ensure that small businesses are not unnecessarily burdened by undue or unwarranted patent infringement actions, NSBA believes that any legislation that is designed to reform our patent system or the patent litigation process must adequately consider and address the concerns of small business, including the potential negative impact that certain provisions may have on individual inventors and small, innovative companies.

NSBA will be holding a members-only teleconference this Friday, March 21 to discuss in detail S. 1720 and S. 2049 and a path forward on the measures, and will update members and Hill staff accordingly.