Committee Puts Patent Reform on ‘Indefinite Hold’18 Jun, 2014 By: Doug McPherson
WASHINGTON – The patent reform bill that would have made it more difficult for patent holders to file frivolous lawsuits was put on indefinite hold last week after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) shelved it – surprising patent reform advocates.
The bill, which was adding new requirements that would force lawsuit losers to cover litigation costs for both sides and patent holders to state their accusations more explicitly, was nearing final revisions. The Washington Post reports Leahy took it off the table after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) intervened at the last minute, according to multiple sources.
The move even surprised Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who were said to have settled on the bill’s language.
An advocate, who the Post didn’t name, said, “Republicans – including Cornyn – [didn’t have] a heads-up, which as you can imagine, has them a little [ticked] off.”
Supporters of the bill included leading tech companies that are often the target of patent trolls – a term for companies that make money by suing other companies for patent infringement, with the knowledge that the other companies would rather settle than go to court.
Some are accusing trial lawyers, universities, pharmaceutical companies and biotech companies for foiling the plan at the eleventh hour. One group that loudly opposed the bill was the United Inventors Association (UIA).
Warren Tuttle, the president of the UIA’s board of directors, called the action “great news.” Tuttle contends that the patent troll bill came from Silicon Valley tech companies, led by Google who didn’t like the America Invents Act (passed in March 2013) that Tuttle says represented “the most sweeping changes” in the history of the U.S. patent system.
“They felt the bill didn’t address what they perceived to be a major patent troll issue,” Tuttle told Response. “They carried on with their own reform battle, intensively lobbying Washington for additional patent system changes.”
Tuttle called the term “patent troll” an “ingenious marketing moniker used to … defile non-practicing entities that help litigate … patent rights in this country.”
While Tuttle admitted there are “some bad apples in America who frivolously sue large companies for personal financial gain,” many of the people targeted in the new patent reform sweep were attorneys taking on patent litigation to help inventors who otherwise lack the resources to go to court.
“They also targeted universities, outside investors and otherwise well intentioned third parties,” Tuttle said. “By definition, Thomas Edison would have been a patent troll were he alive today.”
Some advocates have conceded that patent reform legislation might have to wait until 2015. “It looks like a solution will have to wait until the next session of Congress,” said Matt Levy, patent counsel at the Computer and Communications Industry Association which represents companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo.
“This fight certainly isn’t over, because businesses all over the country are continuing to hand over billions of dollars a week to patent trolls,” Levy said.