A group of US politicians has introduced legislation that seeks to reform the ageing US patent system.
Compainies have been accused of abusing the patent system, especially in the field of IT, to file questionable patents and use them to force firms to pay licence fees.
The proposed legislation would change the way that damages are awarded, essentially reducing overall damages and limiting when punitive damages for wilful infringement can be awarded.
It also calls for more resources for the US Patent and Trademark Office to facilitate closer investigation of new applications and weed out bad patents. The vast majority of patents that are re-examined today are eventually invalidated.
"There should be no question that the US patent system produces high quality patents," said Howard Berman, a congressman and chairman of a subcommittee overseeing intellectual property, who co-sponsored the law.
"Since questions have been raised about whether this is the case, the responsibility of Congress is to take a close look at the functioning of the patent system. High patent quality is essential to continued innovation.
"Litigation abuses, especially ones committed by those which thrive on low quality patents, impede the promotion of the progress of science and the useful arts. Thus, we must act quickly to maintain the integrity of the patent system. "
Previous attempts at patent reform have all failed. But the sponsors of the current bill claim that this attempt has a better chance. For starters, the bill is supported by representatives of both the Democratic and Republican parties.
Patent reform, however, is a complicated matter that affects several industries, each of which has its own priorities and wish lists. The debate essentially spans the fields of pharmaceuticals, information technology and traditional industry.
"Updating the current patent system is necessary to foster more innovation for new technology," Symantec chief executive John Thompson said in a statement.
He added that the law will "enhance patent quality, bring greater clarity to the legal and administrative review process, and expedite the approval of new patents".
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