Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 20, 2014

Still Room for Congress on Patent Fee-Shifting, USPTO’s Lee Says

The deputy director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said on Wednesday that “legislative clarification” is still possible on the issue of fee-shifting in patent lawsuits, even after two Supreme Court decisions on the matter earlier this year.

The Supreme Court issued rulings in two cases dealing with courts’ awarding of attorneys fees to prevailing parties in patent lawsuits, known as fee-shifting, back in April. The issue of fee-shifting remains a point of contention on the Hill in debate over legislation targeting “patent trolls.”

The Supreme Court cases gave district courts more discretion to award attorney’s fees to parties that prevail in a case, but there’s still a requirement that they must be an exceptional case, said Michelle K. Lee, the patent office’s deputy director, at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing.  She’s currently the top person at the agency since there’s currently no director at the office.

“I think there’s still room for legislative reform,” she said,  adding that companies could benefit from more certainty about circumstances under which fees are and are not shifted.

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