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Patent Reform Bill Stalled in Senate

Written by on Friday, April 18th, 2008 Print This Post Print This Post

Members of the biotech industry can now breathe a sigh of relief: the patent reform bill has been stalled in the Senate. 

According to Biotech Transfer Week, the Senate reached the current impasse over a section of the bill dealing with the assessment of damages in patent infringement cases.  The concerns were raised by Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).  Biotech Transfer Week reported Senator Specter’s remarks as follows:

“The Chairman and I differ on a number of aspects of the proposed patent reform legislation. .. . The principal sticking point is the issue of how to assess damages in patent infringement lawsuits. We thought we had reached an agreement on this matter, but the language continued to shift, so we do not yet have a deal on the package. . . .  I am hopeful that we can reach an agreement, but more work has to be done to get it right."
The impasse may mean that the legislation is derailed until after the election.  However, Biotech Transfer Week reports that some members of the biotech community, who have opposed the bill, remain concerned that it still may be voted on during this legislative session. 
Biotech Transfer Week reported on the reaction from the Biotechnology Industry Organization ("BIO") as follows:
“Our view is that [we disagree with] those who are saying this is dead, or there is no time to do it now and that they missed that window,” Tom DiLenge, vice president and general counsel for BIO, told BTW this week. “There has always been time to do a consensus patent reform bill – but does the other side want to stick to its guns and get 100 percent of everything they wanted? In that case, I think it could be dead. . . .Or, are they willing to compromise and get a bill that has about 98 percent of what they wanted, and is acceptable to the rest of the patent-holding community. . . .”
"The idea that Senator Specter, or BIO, or anyone would accept really harmful damages language just because some other part of the bill is the way that they want it, is just not accurate,” DiLenge said. “The other side in this debate needs to recognize that they’re not going to be able to get the kind of harmful damages language that they were seeking. Once they recognize that and admit it, we can come to the table and get this bill done fairly quickly.”
Thus, while the patent reform debate may not be dead, it is definitely going to be tabled for a while, which will give the biotech industry an additional opportunity to lobby against various provisions of the bill.  Will the delay be enough to ultimately get a bill in place that will be supported by both the technology and the biotech industries?  Only time will tell.  We will keep you posted on the developments.

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