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Leahy Pulls Patent Reform Bill

Tech industry says anti-troll legislation potentially dealt fatal blow this Congress

Saying that after a year after negotiations between both sides with no agreement, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy pulled his patent reform bill from the markup agenda on Wednesday.

“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,” Leahy said in a statement Wednesday. He wanted bipartisan support for the measure, the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act, and said he didn’t see that happening, so Leahy pulled it from the voting agenda.

Some lobbyists predict the move means patent reform is all but dead this session of Congress.

The House last December passed its own patent reform legislation, initially raising hopes for Senate passage.

The bill would have made it harder for so-called patent “trolls” to file mass, frivolous patent infringement lawsuits; it would have mandated those who file must make it clear what patent is allegedly being infringed upon and required litigation losers to pay litigation costs for both sides.

The companies who file such suits claim they’re just following the letter of the law.

The issue is of importance to radio, with patent trolls filing IP infringement lawsuits against podcasters, and broadcasters who use music storage and automation as well as HD Radio technology.

Leahy’s move was a surprise and a disappointment for patent reform advocates like the Consumer Electronics Association. “We are profoundly disappointed the Senate has abdicated its responsibility to address the skyrocketing costs of patent abuse,” said CEA President/CEO Gary Shapiro. “Over the course of several months, senators reached a balanced and careful compromise that would have discouraged patent abusers, while protecting the rights of legitimate patent holders — only to be undone by pressure from the patent abuse industry.”

He urged lawmakers to address the issue next year. Earlier this week the CEA released a “Troll Toll,” noting how much frivolous patent litigation has cost U.S. businesses.

Public Knowledge Director of the Patent Reform Project Charles Duan said it was “unfortunate” the measure was pulled from the agenda and that without passage of patent reform, “consumers will continue to pay for an outmoded, misused patent system.”