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Senate debates patent reform bill

Janet Babin Mar 10, 2009
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Senate debates patent reform bill

Janet Babin Mar 10, 2009
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TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: Also on Capitol Hill, patent reform. The often-wonky, lawyerly issue isn’t a conversation fire-starter. But believe it or not, it could be just what the nation needs to escape the economic fallout. A Senate committee considers a bill today with changes that are expected to spark fierce debate. From the Innovations Desk at North Carolina Public Radio, here’s Marketplace’s Janet Babin.


Janet Babin: If enacted, the new patent bill would give credit for an invention to the first person who files for a patent — not necessarily the first person to create something. Small companies and individual inventors don’t like that. They often lack the money needed to file a patent application first.

But this issue isn’t just about big companies versus small inventors. It’s more industry versus industry. The new law could save companies like Google and IBM millions of dollars. It would limit damage awards in patent infringement lawsuits.

But pharmaceutical and biotech firms are mostly against the changes. They fear lower penalties for infringement would undermine the value of patents.

University of Iowa law professor Mark Janis says Google and IBM may get the reforms they’re looking for:

Mark Janis: It could pass, but I think we ought to stop and ask, you know, whether it will accomplish what anyone seeks to accomplish with it.

Janis says one size does not fit all, and that judges and juries should be allowed to decide patent infringement damages on a case-by-case basis.

I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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