Leaders of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on April 1 said they have reached agreement on key elements of a bill to revise U.S. patent law, Reuters reports — changes that aim to reduce the number of patent-related lawsuits in fields such as technology. One of the changes would require judges hearing patent infringement cases to play a gatekeeper role in helping identify appropriate damages, according to a statement from committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. A similar bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives in late 2007, but failed in the Senate largely because of disagreements between industries over how to craft the bill. Big computer and hardware firms have pushed for years for patent law changes in hopes of reducing litigation, much of which they blame on poor-quality patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. But the effort has worried big drug companies, some smaller technology firms, and others dependent on small portfolios of patents. The biggest fight has been over damages. Current law allows for infringement to be punished by payment of the entire market value of the product, but some high-tech companies say that’s unfair, as just one of their products might involve hundreds of patents…

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