By Dennis Crouch
While the attention of the patent community rightly be focused on the Supreme Court for the next few months, patent reform initiatives are rapidly moving forward in Congress, the US Patent Office, State Legislatures, and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The only area where patent reforms are seemingly stalled is WIPO.
Congressional Patent Reforms: In particular, I expect that major patent reforms will pass in the Senate by May 2014 in a strongly bi-partisan bill supported by President Obama. This is one area where the parties see the potential for getting something done and are ready to move. The House of Representatives has already passed a companion bill that would (a) dramatically raise the pleading standards for filing a patent infringement action; (b) require that courts award the prevailing party attorney fees and expenses except for certain cases; (c) allow defendants to force joinder of those with a direct financial interest in the patents at issue as a mechanism for both ensuring that the prevailing party fees are paid and that the financial interests behind patent litigation become public; (d) limit discovery until after claim construction; (e) require more particular pre-filing notice for willful infringement; (f) boost transparency of patent ownership requirements; (g) limiting PGR estoppel only to actually raised issues and eliminating the “reasonably could have raised” provision; (h) etc.
The Senate is moving forward with consideration of its leading patent reform bill, S. 1720 known as the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act of 2013. The Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on the proposal on April 3, 2014.