On March 17, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to create a pilot program designed to steer patent infringement lawsuits to select judges in a few district courts. Under the pilot program, judges in participating courts can ask to be designated as judges for patent cases. If a patent judge is assigned to a judge who is not a designated patent judge, the case may be reassigned to a designated patent judge. More details about the bill are available here. The bill has now been referred to the U.S. Senate.
In the meantime, House and Senate committees decided to delay consideration of the more comprehensive patent reform bills, S. 515 and H.R. 1260, that were introduced earlier this year. Several senators and representatives asked for the delay, in part to provide more consideration of the bills’ controversial limitations on damages in patent infringement actions. More details about the 2009 patent reform bills are available here.
Earlier this week, Senator Jon Kyl introduced an alternative patent reform bill, S. 610. S. 610 is similar to S. 515, but (among other things) it removes a section that would codify the objective recklessness standard for willful infringement. It would also make it more difficult to overturn a patent for inequitable conduct by requiring an administrative proceeding before the USPTO for all inequitable conduct determinations.