Looks Like Patent Trolls Have Won This Round As Even Weakened Patent Reform Likely To Die
from the history-repeats-itself dept
Oh, that revolving door. Helping patent trolls. Also, note that everything fell apart just as... Intellectual Ventures ramped up its political contributions. I'm sure that's just a coincidence, right?
According to a tech industry source, Leahy has changed his position in part as a result of pressure from the Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform, a lobbying group whose law firm Akin Gump recently hired Leahy’s long time chief-of-staff. The source added that Leahy is prepared to let the reform bill founder, and then draw political cover by casting blame for the failure on committee members’ inability to produce a suitable compromise. Meanwhile, the bill’s momentum has also been sputtering as a result of the trial lawyer bar pressuring other Senate Democrats to slow the bill.
This account of the Senate patent bill’s slow death is consistent with a source cited by Reuters, who said “It’s somewhere between sinking like a rock and air going out of it, like a balloon,”
And, of course, even if something does get squeezed out, much of the important stuff has already been wiped out of the bill. Late last year and earlier this year, most of our focus was on making sure that the covered business method provisions stayed in the bill, but we've been told they're long gone. This was the part of the bill that would allow the Patent Office to more quickly review business method and software patents to make sure they were legit. This already exists for certain financial patents, and it's been shown to be effective in tossing out bad patents. There is no reason to oppose this unless you have a bunch of bad patents... so of course, bad patent hoarders like Microsoft, IBM and Apple freaked out about it.
But even more basic ideas for stopping patent trolls are being stripped from the bill as well, according to Jeff Roberts over at GigaOm:
Staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who did not want to be named, said by phone that the hold up is due to disagreements over two new points of contention: a provision that would require patent plaintiffs to provide detailed descriptions of alleged infringement in the pleadings they file, and one that would alter the legal process known as discovery (in which each side has to produce documents and witnesses). The latter reform is important because patent trolls rely on the economic asymmetries of patent litigation — especially the threat of discovery, which is extremely time-consuming and expensive — to force their victims into settlements.If you've been following the patent reform space for more than a decade, you'd recognize this pattern. Back in 2004, Senator Leahy had introduced a semi-decent (not great, but not horrible) patent reform bill... and the trolls (and pharmaceutical companies) went apeshit over it, killing it. Every new session of Congress, a new version would be introduced that would be watered down to appease the pharmaceutical companies. Seven years later, the America Invents Act was finally passed... once it had been stripped of basically all useful provisions. It did absolutely nothing to deal with the problems of the patent system (and actually may have created a few new ones).
These proposed pleading and discovery reforms have until now been uncontroversial.
Unfortunately, it looks like we may have a few more years of this kind of crap, and no actual end in sight to patent trolling. It's pretty clear that companies that abuse the patent system are now abusing the political process to make sure they can extract more cash from those who are actually innovating. It's profitable to destroy our innovation economy, apparently, so why not spend it on buying politicians who won't stand up for what's right?