Melanie Wyne, Kevin Donnelly | May 23, 2014
On may 21, Senate Judiciary Chairman, Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced that he would pull the patent litigation bill that has been under discussion for the past several months from the committee’s agenda. This action effectively kills the legislation for this congressional session. Chairman Leahy stated “I have said all along that we needed broad bipartisan support to get a bill through the Senate. Regrettably, competing companies on both sides of this issue refused to come to agreement on how to achieve that goal.” As I mentioned when we met in DC, the legislation was ultimately not able to overcome several political hurdles on both sides of the aisle-political opposition from trial lawyers that put pressure on Democrats and the upcoming midterm elections where Republicans feel confident that they will take back control of the Senate thus limiting their incentives to want to make further compromises on this issue. Republicans believe they can get a bill they like better in the new Congress.
The Main Street Patent Coalition (NAR is a member) and several of its members issued statements expressing strong regret and pledging to continue to fight for relief from patent troll abuse at the federal level.
While this is certainly a disappointing turn, NAR continues to work on solutions to patent troll abuse. Legislation focused on the specific issue of abusive patent troll demand letters is still under consideration in both the House and the Senate. On May 22, a hearing on patent demand letter legislation took place in a subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce committee. NAR is actively lobbying to urge passage of this legislation.
Given the failure to pass federal legislation in this Congress-we are very likely to see ramped up action in the states. Currently, 12 states have passed legislation aimed at curbing demand letter abuse by patent trolls. More specific information about state demand letter laws can be found here.