The patent system is on center stage this week.
The latest Apple v Samsung patent trial begins today. Also today, the landmark Alice v CLS software patent case will be argued before the Supreme Court. And last Thursday, Senator Leahy announced that members of the Judiciary Committee would be attempting to add a key fee-shifting provision to the Leahy patent reform bill this week.
Apple v Samsung trial begins
The trial on the next generation of smartphones begins today. A flurry of orders were issued on Friday, and the final pre-trial order was issued just yesterday. Jury instructions are presently being narrowed down, and jury selection should commence shortly. Billions of dollars are at stake, and the trial is expected to run into the first week of May.
Alice v CLS: oral arguments at SCOTUS
Oral arguments will be heard this morning. The eyes of Silicon Valley, the patent bar, the Obama Administration, Congress and even main street business owners will be focused intently on this case. The claimed invention at issue boils down to a system of settling international trades. It is generally expected that the Court will rule against Alice. What is more uncertain is the extent to which the Supreme Court will pair back software patents, and how much leeway it will continue to allow the Federal Circuit.
Senate patent reform: Fee shifting to be added
Fee shifting is considered a critical provision by most patent reform advocates. Fee shifting requires losers with weak cases to pay the other party's legal fees. It had been feared that a final bill would be announced on March 27, and that it would not contain fee-shifting. But it appears some Senators have drawn a line in the sand. Rather than announcing the final bill in a markup hearing, Senator Leahy held an executive meeting and announced they would be working on introducing fee-shifting into the bill in the coming days.
Opposition to fee-shifting had been mounting. Senate patent reform hearing transcripts indicate there was considerable resistance to the idea of fee-shifting expressed back in December. And opposition appeared to have been mounting further after Universities and others briefed Senators behind closed doors recently.
As we reported earlier, it was at precisely this point in the legislative process that another key provision, Covered Business Method (CBM) expansion was torpedoed; that occurred after heavy closed-door lobbying from tech-giants with lots of software patents.
At the executive meeting, Senator Leahy indicated that a fee-shifting provision was very important to Senators Cornyn and Grassley, and that he would like to see some version of it added to the bill. Senator Grassley went on to speak and indicated that while he was willing to work with other Senators, at the end of the day a watered down bill would not be acceptable: Senator Hatch indicated that an acceptable patent reform bill would include fee-shifting, among other things. And Senator Schumer stated that he would not accept simply passing patent reform just to be able to see that patent reform had passed.
So, by Friday we should be able to see transcripts of the oral arguments in Alice v CLS. Testimony in Apple v Samsung will have begun. And the Senate patent reform bill may be near completion with an intact fee shifting provision.