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Patent reform seemed just around the corner. In December, the House of Representatives passed the Innovation Act by a margin of 325 to 91. The bill, which would have made it harder to file spurious patent suits, had the blessing of President Barack Obama. All it needed was to pass the Senate.
But on Wednesday, Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, announced on his website that he has taken the bill off the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Large technology companies, and even some small businesses, have been plagued in recent years by patents suits brought by “patent assertion entities,” better known as patent trolls. These companies own patents, which they’ve generally acquired from failed companies, but don’t make any products or offer any services themselves. They exist purely to sue other companies for patent infringement. The Innovation Act was a much anticipated piece of legislation aimed at stopping this behavior, and the bill’s death is a major step backwards for patent reform.
We have been working for almost a year with countless stakeholders on legislation to address the problem of patent trolls who are misusing the patent system. This is a real problem facing businesses in Vermont and across the country.I have to agree that if the Bill is so broad to deal with one problem that it will be creating another problem for entities that are currently requiring the protections of the existing laws there needs to be some adjustments made before such a sweeping change, no matter if this change has merit. The Bill has not been killed, it has been taken of the table to be voted at when the involved parties can reach better wording to maintain protections while adding the touted changes most people see as a good improvement. Fine tuning wording of a bill is done frequently and doesn't mean that the changes won't happen.
Unfortunately, there has been no agreement on how to combat the scourge of patent trolls on our economy without burdening the companies and universities who rely on the patent system every day to protect their inventions. We have heard repeated concerns that the House-passed bill went beyond the scope of addressing patent trolls, and would have severe unintended consequences on legitimate patent holders who employ thousands of Americans.