Cornyn: Changes haven't discouraged patent reform

Recent court decisions have resulted in only "marginal changes" to patent litigation, Sen. John CornynJohn CornynHillicon Valley: Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling | Tech legal shield makes it into trade deal | Impeachment controversy over phone records heats up | TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling Lighthizer starts GOP charm offensive on Trump trade deal MORE (R-Texas) said Thursday, arguing legislation to rein in "patent trolls" is still necessary. 

Cornyn reiterated in a speech that patent legislation could be one area where Congress can overcome its "dysfunctional past" now that Republicans lead both chambers. 

House Republicans are expected to take the lead on legislation to push back on companies accused of extracting settlements from startups with threats of frivolous litigation.

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is expected to reintroduce the Innovation Act next week, which overwhelmingly passed the House last Congress.  Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wants to wait for the House to approve the bill before his committee starts work, Cornyn said. 

The Texas senator and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), however, are working on a proposal in the meantime. Both teamed up on a compromise last year before reform stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate. 

“We are not waiting for that,” Cornyn said at an American Enterprise Institute event. “We are already talking, and Sen. Schumer and I, I think, are meeting next week to figure out exactly where we are and to the extent to which the land has shifted."

Cornyn on Thursday outlined a series of principles to stifle abuse, noting that both parties and President Obama continue to support legislative reform. 

He said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “is anxious to give this subject floor time once it is voted out of committee.”

Last Congress, Cornyn introduced the Patent Abuse Reduction Act. That legislation would have required firms to provide more detailed claims when bringing lawsuits. It would have also required plaintiffs to pay for the costs of producing excessive discovery documents.

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The legislation would have also required the losing party to pay the winner’s legal fees unless the lawsuit was found to be reasonable. The reforms were meant to discourage companies from using the legal process to extract settlements. 

While patent litigation has risen over the past decade, observers have noted there has been a 40 percent drop from 2013 to 2014. 

Some have argued that recent Supreme Court cases as well as other changes at the executive level have decreased the urgency to pass changes to the legal system to combat patent trolls.

Companies like Qualcomm, for example, have cautioned that swinging the pendulum too far could deter reasonable litigation and set up a "litigation minefield" for smaller companies trying to defend their patents.