"And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood"
-- Revelation 6:12
As the Horsemen of the Apocalypse plod through the financial markets, Congress, suffices to say, has has a rough patch heading into the final days of the current Session of Congress. So it came as quite a surprise (at least to yours truly) that Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) introduced the latest Patent Reform Act last night.
Early reports indicate that the bill "departs substantially from the one sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. The Kyl bill resulted from months of meetings with critics of the Leahy language."
Interestingly, members from the Coalition for Patent Fairness were absent from the talks leading to the latest version of the bill. While there is practically zero chance that this bill will pass in the current session, members of the Senate continue to stress that patent reform will be a "top priority" for 2009.
In short, the bill:
- Increases PTO authority on a number of administrative fronts (money, etc.).
- Introduces "applicant quality controls" (i.e., prior art search w/ analysis), but does not make them mandatory. Instead, section 123 of the bill provides that "the Director may, by regulation, offer incentives to applicants who submit a search report, a patentability analysis, or other information relevant to patentability."
- Modifies inequitable conduct, so that, if inequitable conduct is found during litigation, a court order must contain "findings of fact setting out with specificity the information relating to the conduct at issue not previously considered by the Director and upon which the court based its order." The patentee then would have to file a reissue within 2 months thereafter, and take the matter up with the PTO. If there is "probable cause" that inequitable conduct has occurred, the Director will be authorized to impose civil sanctions of up to $150,000 for each act of misconduct, or up to $1M for a "pattern of misconduct."
- Provides a 9-month "first window" for opposition, where issues related to 35 USC 101-103 AND 112 may be considered. No "lawsuit threat" showing is required for oppositions.
- Provides a "second window" for opposition, where only 102 or 103 considerations based on patents or printed publications will be allowed.
- Applies post-opposition estoppel to any subsequent litigation.
- Requires economic analysis for determining damages. Subject to specific exemptions, "the amount of a reasonable royalty shall not be determined by the use of a standard or average ratio for the division of profits, an industry average rate for royalties, or other methods that
are not based on the particular benefits or advantages of the use of the invention."
- Includes a "Check 21" exception: "With respect to the use by a financial institution of a check collection system that constitutes an infringement under subsection (a) or (b) of section 271, the provisions of sections 281, 283, 284, and 285 shall not apply against the financial institution with respect to such a check collection system."
Read/download a copy of the latest draft here, courtesy of Hal Wegner.