July 23, 2007

Patent Legislation Fight … [7:56 am]

On the pages of today’s Boston Globe. As you might expect, only part of the story gets cited, but we are probably entering an interesting stage of the fight in Congress:

  • An editorial that, at least, describes the scope of the conflict being played out in Congress right now: Patently flawedpdf

    The strongest advocates for changing the law are high-tech firms that often find themselves sued by patent holders who contend that their inventions are being used without license. Lawyers for the high-tech companies have taken to calling these patent holders “patent trolls” and accuse them of bringing suit in federal courts in places like eastern Texas, which has a reputation for favoring plaintiffs in these cases. The high-tech firms want to limit this venue-shopping by patent holders and the damages they can get if their claims are upheld. The firms also want more opportunity to challenge new patents after they have been approved.

    On the other side are the pharmaceutical industry, biotech firms, research universities, and even some high-tech companies. They say they would welcome some changes in the patent system but worry that bills now before Congress would seriously weaken the patents that are their lifeblood. Lita Nelsen , director of the Technology Licensing Office of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says, “Only patents protect the little guy,” and points out that the vast majority of biotech startups depend on university patents.

  • And an op-ed: A fresh look at patent lawspdf. Note, this is a particularly lame piece, failing to actually talk about what’s at stake and instead focusing on some of the least interesting dimensions of the problem. For example:

    Instead, today’s patent challengers can calculate damages in a lawsuit based on the value of the entire product, not the specific component in question. For example, a lawsuit can claim the worth of an entire computer, when only one computer chip is being challenged. It’s not only excessive, it’s an obstacle to new, innovative discoveries.

    Surprisingly, patent challengers can also navigate the system to find the “friendliest” courts to their cause, making places like Texas a popular spot even for companies that have no actual ties to the state. Nationwide, patent lawsuits nearly tripled between 1991 and 2004; between 2001 and 2004, the number of cases grew by nearly 20 percent.

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