Newspaper article Roll Call

Senators Renew Bipartisan Assault on Patent Trolls

Newspaper article Roll Call

Senators Renew Bipartisan Assault on Patent Trolls

Article excerpt

Updated 3:49 p.m. | Patent trolls beware: This time it's different.

Last year, bipartisan legislation designed to combat what supporters view as abuse of patent claims got stuck in a Senate bottleneck, with then-Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont telling the Burlington Free Press he was "furious" with his fellow Democrat, then-Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, over keeping the bill off the floor.

Knowing Reid would no longer control the floor schedule in 2015, staff for Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Reid heir apparent Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., went back to work on assembling a new bill, working to again build support among members of the Judiciary Committee.

"This is as close as you get to legislative shock and awe," Cornyn said, looking around at the bipartisan mix of Judiciary Committee members assembled at a news conference to unveil the deal Wednesday afternoon.

"I had a hard time explaining when the White House is for something, the president's for patent reform, when Republicans are for something, when Democrats are for something, we still can't get it done," Cornyn said. "I think this is the beginning of a new opportunity for us to show that we can work together in the best interests of the American people ... which will improve the quality of their lives."

In early February, the two senators, who are key members of the leadership in their respective parties, held a meeting in Cornyn's hideaway to lay out their priorities and reach an agreement to build support of committee and chamber leadership, according to a person familiar with development of the bill.

Cornyn and Schumer managed to get both Leahy, now the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary panel, and new Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, on board, along with a lengthy list of panel members.

Asked what's different in 2015, Grassley didn't hesitate.

"Last year it was stalled by a significant person running the United States Senate. ... I don't think there'll be that stall this time," he said.

Reid wasn't the only problem, and the new bill has been revised.

Leahy highlighted that the last patent overhaul to become law, which came when he was chairman of the committee, took several years and in fact more than one administration to be developed. That bill ultimately became law as the America Invents Act in 2011.

Patent law is an issue where the divide is not partisan, and President Barack Obama has called for getting an overhaul to his desk, including in the 2014 State of the Union address.

Schumer hopes to see action before the August recess.

"Patent trolls are taking a system meant to drive innovation and instead using it to stifle job-creating businesses around the country. Main Street stores, tech startups and more are being smothered by the abuse that is all too common in our patent system, and it's time for that to end," Schumer said in a statement. …

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