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Supremes Relax Patent “Loser Pays”

Leahy’s patent reform markup delayed

The Supreme Court this week released two rulings in patent cases that could make it easier for those sued by patent trolls to get their attorney fees paid.

The rulings come as lawmakers in Congress are trying to pass patent reform legislation.

That’s of interest to radio with patent IP litigation filed against broadcasters employing certain music storage and automation systems and HD Radio technology. Most recently, we’re reported that The Telos Alliance has assured customers that using its products that employ the AES67-2013 standard for audio over IP “is safe” — trying to calm rumblings it says another company has made that the standard violates that other company’s IP patent.

In the two recent rulings, the Supreme Court said the current standard for requiring the losing party of an unreasonable patent infringement case to pay the attorney’s fees of the winning party is “unduly rigid and inconsistent with patent law,” The Hill reports.

The Supremes said another court can shift the fees if one bar is met, not two. The two previous thresholds required cases to be both “objectively baseless” and “brought in subjective bad faith,” according to the account. The two patent cases were: Octane Fitness v. ICON Health & Fitness Inc. and Highmark Inc. v. Allcare Health Management System Inc.

In Congress, as lawmakers look to reform the patent system to combat “trolls” that profit by bringing meritless suits against small companies, one of the issues being debated is whether to require courts to shift fees more often, we’ve reported. The idea is to deter trolls from filing frivolous technology-oriented lawsuits.

In 2013, the House passed the Innovation Act, which addresses the issue, we reported and now, the Senate is debating patent reform as Senate Judiciary Chairman Vermont Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy looks to advance his Patent Transparency and Improvements Act.

A markup, set for yesterday, has been delayed. Leahy said in a statement he continues to work with other lawmakers “to address constructive comments from both sides about the patent legislation” and that he’s encouraged by the progress made so far.