Amid Senate stall, coalition calls for patent bill

The Senate Judiciary Committee has hit a weekslong roadblock in its efforts to stop patent “trolls,” but a coalition looking for a major overhaul is telling lawmakers to keep pushing.

In a letter to leaders of the committee on Monday, the Main Street Patent Coalition wrote: “Congress has come too far to leave this problem unsolved.”

“Delay in enacting reforms simply empowers patent trolls and permits even greater harm to Main Street businesses and our economy,” the group added. “The Judiciary Committee must take action now to respond to these clear abuses.”

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Over the last month, the Judiciary panel has repeatedly scheduled markups of legislation to block the trolls, which profit by launching lawsuits over patent claims, only to delay the sessions at the last moment. This week is the first since early April that the Senate has been in session but the Judiciary Committee has not had a meeting scheduled on the issue.

The delays have stirred anxiety in the tech sector, which has been supportive of an overhaul, as well as other industries. The Main Street Patent Coalition includes trade groups of retailers, financial institutions, restaurants and other companies.

“On behalf of the millions of businesses we represent, we call on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to approve meaningful patent reform now,” the group wrote on Monday.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) a member of the Judiciary Committee and supporter of patent reform, said last month that the committee would need to act on a bill by the end of May in order for it to get a floor vote this year.

Judiciary panel Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has been negotiating with members behind the scenes for weeks, but opposition to some aspects of reform has appeared largely unchanged. Skeptics have worried that overly broad reform would prevent inventors from capitalizing off of their innovations.

One of the main sticking points for members so far has been a proposal to make it easier for the losing party in a meritless patent lawsuit to pay the winner’s court fees.