Banks Turn to Schumer on Patents

Townhall.com Staff
|
Posted: Jun 15, 2011 9:09 AM
Banks Turn to Schumer on Patents
WASHINGTON — For years and much to their frustration, big banks have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to a tiny Texas company to use a patented system for processing digital copies of checks, making Claudio Ballard, the inventor of the system, a wealthy man and the bank industry’s biggest patent foe.

After years of fighting Mr. Ballard at the federal Patent Office, in court and across a negotiating table, the banks went to see one of their best friends in Congress, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, who inserted into a patent overhaul bill a provision that appears largely aimed at helping banks rid themselves of the Ballard problem. The Senate passed the bill easily in March.

The proposal would allow banks to get a federal re-examination of certain patents that they have been accused of infringing, specifically limited to “a financial product or service.” The language is now included in a bill that may come to a vote in the House of Representatives as early as Wednesday. While at least two House members have moved to strip the provision from the bill, bank lobbyists have worked hard to defeat previous attempts to remove it.

Mr. Schumer and the Financial Services Roundtable, a business group that pushed the measure, say the provision is not focused on any one company but more broadly at “meritless litigation over patents of dubious quality,” as Steve Bartlett, the president of the Roundtable, said at a House hearing.