Patent reformer: We didn’t lose

The head of the tech startup advocacy group Engine is denying that her side lost the battle over patent reform when legislation to stop patent “trolls” effectively died in the Senate last month. 

Instead, the tech industry has been able to assert its priorities across Washington, Julie Samuels wrote in an open letter published at Re/code. Just because one measure failed this year doesn’t mean that the sector has lost its clout, she claimed.

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“This is not the story of a ‘failed patent bill,’ ” Samuels wrote. “Instead, it’s about a community that, despite its relative youth, is learning how to navigate an often dysfunctional legislative system.

“Our efforts have changed substantive debates in many areas, and have significantly moved the state of the law — even without passing legislation yet this year. This progress might be written off by some, but what we have already achieved is a powerful signal of what’s to come.”

Congress is “notorious for getting nothing done,” she noted.

Though the Senate's inaction disappointed many advocates of patent reform, lawmakers merely showed how out of touch they are, she claimed.

“Soon, there will be no distinction between the tech community and the rest of the country,” Samuels wrote. “The politicians who understand that, and who work to legislate policies that help technologies and the startups who create them thrive, will be the future of this country.”

Last month, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) pulled the plug on a much-delayed bill to stop the patent trolls, which make money by suing companies over patent rights. 

The move, which reportedly came at the behest of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), was a major setback for the tech set, who say that the trolls can milk them dry in legal fees and stop young companies from getting in the game.  

In addition to Leahy’s decision on the patent law, Congress has also stalled on immigration reform and hurdles have emerged to overhauling surveillance at the National Security Agency, the industry’s other priorities in Washington.