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UW group contests patent law changes

Smith undertakes reforming U.S. patent, trademark laws

Smith undertakes reforming U.S. patent, trademark laws

WASHINGTON -- Texas Congressman Lamar Smith may have walked away from his dream of being a physicist, but as a politician he believes his passion for science and discovery can still help protect American inventions.

The Republican is working on what he says will be the first comprehensive overhaul of U.S. patent and trademark laws in half a century.

"Everybody recognizes the need for change in patent law. So much has changed in 50 years that we really need to modernize our laws," said Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on courts, the Internet and intellectual property.

It's hugely important for high-technology companies, many of them in Texas, who say changes are needed to stay globally competitive. Smith's proposals could also benefit garage inventors who dream of selling their gadgets on the Home Shopping Network.

He's supported by companies like International Business Machines Corp., but not everyone thinks patent laws need reforming.

A group representing the state's biotechnology industry believes some of Smith's proposed changes could hurt businesses that have invented pregnancy tests, cancer therapies, enzymes that clean up oil spills and a host of pharmaceuticals.

Smith's bill would make it harder for patent owners to win court injunctions to stop patent infringement. Under current law, a patent owner who has sued for patent infringement and prevails in trial can get a permanent injunction to stop production of the competing product.

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