Administration Hits Patent Reform Bill | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: February 7, 2008

Administration Hits Patent Reform Bill

White House opposes effort to limit damages in patent infringement cases
Department: Government & Policy

Taking sides in a fight over how best to spur innovation, the Bush Administration says it strongly opposes a patent reform bill that has cleared the House and is awaiting a floor vote in the Senate later this month.

In a Feb. 4 letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the Administration says it will continue to oppose the legislation in its entirety unless changes are made to a key provision changing the way damages are calculated in patent infringement cases.

The bill limits damage awards to the actual value of the particular technology involved in the suit instead of the total market value of a finished product containing the technology.

"While well-intentioned, we do not believe a convincing basis has been established to justify the significant changes to current law in the bill's damages section," Nathaniel F. Wienecke, the Commerce Department's assistant secretary for legislative and intergovernmental affairs, wrote in the letter to Leahy and other committee members.

"The Administration believes that it is important to provide greater certainty in patent litigation and remains interested in exploring options that do so," according to the letter.

"At a time when we are actively encouraging our foreign trading partners to strengthen their intellectual property protection and enforcement systems, this legislation may send the opposite signal—that we intend to weaken aspects of our current law that deter infringement," Wienecke stated.

The legislation is championed by technology companies???such as Microsoft, Intel, and Apple???that want to curb what they consider disproportionate damage awards for patent infringement. Biotech and pharmaceutical companies have been leading the opposition, arguing the bill would significantly weaken the value of their patents by limiting the amount of damages they may receive if their inventions are infringed.

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