March 15, 2010 - Earlier this month, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) announced in a press release that the Senate Judiciary Committee has reached a bipartisan agreement and produced an amendment with compromises designed to make the bill ready for a Senate vote.
"This compromise may not be everything that everyone wants," acknowledged Leahy, "but it makes important reforms to the outdated patent system."
However, to say that the compromise is not "what everyone wants" is an understatement. The Coalition for Patent Fairness, a group representing Big Tech companies such as Google, Apple and others, condemned the agreement for its lack of litigation damage limits (although that is welcome news for small businesses and individual inventors). The Atlantic noted that, as detailed in Pat Choate's book Saving Capitalism, Google, Apple, and 13 other major tech companies were defendants in 730 patent infringement lawsuits, and collectively paid about $4 billion in damages from 1996-2008.
Meanwhile, according to the same Atlantic article, the pharmaceutical industry, biotech groups and smaller tech firms are not as strongly opposed to the latest changes to the bill as are the Big Tech companies. But the bill still contains causes for concern - such as a change from a first-to-invent system to a first-to-file system. That, according to AIPR President and Founder Alexander Poltorak, would create a "race to the Patent Office" that would not necessarily award patents to the true inventor.
The full text of the amendment is available here in PDF form.