Patent reform bill targeting patent trolls shelved in Senate

Bill aimed at reducing patent litigation removed from agenda after lawmakers failed to reach agreement on key details.

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US Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). US Senate

A patent reform bill that many tech companies hoped would rein in patent trolls has been put on hold after lawmakers were unable to reach agreement on some details.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced Wednesday that the bill was being removed from the committee's agenda after weeks of negotiations failed to reach a consensus on changes to it. Similar to a bill overwhelmingly approved last year by the House of Representatives, the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act aimed to reduce patent litigation brought by patent assertion entities, also known as patent trolls.

"Because there is not sufficient support behind any comprehensive deal, I am taking the patent bill off the Senate Judiciary Committee agenda," Leahy said in a statement that laid the blame for the bill's demise at the feet of "competing companies on both sides of this issue [that] refused to come to agreement on how to achieve that goal."

Despite Wednesday's removal of the bill from the committee's agenda, Leahy left the door open to resume reform efforts if a deal were eventually reached.

"If the stakeholders are able to reach a more targeted agreement that focuses on the problem of patent trolls, there will be a path for passage this year and I will bring it immediately to the committee," Leahy wrote.

In addition to retailers and financial institutions, Google and Cisco Systems supported the legislation they hoped would curtail what they consider frivolous lawsuits brought by companies that exist for the purpose of collecting patents and filing lawsuits against the patents. Opponents of the legislation argued that it would create hurdles that would only stymie small inventors looking to defend their patents from large, well-funded companies.

"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. "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."

Like the House bill, which passed by a 325-91 vote in December, the Senate bill included a fee-shifting provision that would allow courts to award reasonable attorneys fees and other expenses to the prevailing party if the claims brought against it were not legally justified.

 

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