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SCOTT JAGOW: A lot of small businesses believe the U.S. patent system puts them at a disadvantage. They say it favors big companies. Congress might help out the little guy this week with a bill that would change the way patent disputes are settled — but it also could have unintended consequences. Janet Babin reports from our Innovations Desk at North Carolina Public Radio.


JANET BABIN: The bipartisan bill's key component aims to reduce the number of patent infringement lawsuits out there.

Instead of heading to court, companies could challenge a patent through the U.S. Patent Office.

That could reduce pricey legal fees that get passed on to consumers, but Bryan Lord with tech firm Amber Wave Systems says without legal charges to worry about, companies would be spurred to challenge patents without good reason.

Lord also says the changes would make venture capital much harder for startups to come by.

BRYAN LORD: This would make the validity of those patents be in constant question and cast a pall of doubt over any patent holder.

Lord's company is part of the Innovation Alliance, a group of tech companies, including Qualcomm, that's calling for Congress to act with caution as it considers patent reform.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.