After patent reform’s death in the Senate, what next for tech?

Now what?

The tech industry saw another of its federal policy issues – this time a patent reform bill – die in the Senate Wednesday. This comes after its efforts for immigration reform have stalled.

Tech firms like Google and Cisco had been advocating for patent reform, which seemed like an uphill battle since Congress passed a major patent overhaul in 2011.

But the effort appeared to gain momentum as other industries, such as retail and restaurants, joined. They went to Congress to complain about being the recipients of patent infringement letters that asked for payments to avoid legal trouble. Groups representing startups also jumped in to complain they too were besieged by threats of patent lawsuits.

In the end, it wasn’t enough. The bill failed to garner necessary support, said Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy in a statement, according to The Hill.

While a similar bill passed the House by a wide margin, and President Obama has signaled his support for reform, the Senate bill ran into roadblocks. One key issue was “fee shifting,” requiring the loser of a meritless patent infringement case to pay the winner’s fees.

And tech had powerful opposition. The pharmaceutical industry and trial lawyers fought the effort. Universities, one of the biggest patent holders, also objected to the bill, according to GigaOm.

Patent reformers could look to try again after the midterm elections. Another avenue, as GigaOm mentions, is the courts.

And there are other bills, as Julie Samuels of Engine Advocacy tweeted:

The loss on patent reform is also a hit on tech’s ability to get something done in Washington.

Those prospects will be more challenging as the mid-year elections turn into the presidential primary season.

Above: The Capitol Building  (Mark Wilson/Getty Images).


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  • Paul Morinville

    This particular patent reform effort would have wiped out patent rights
    for almost all independent inventors. Not so surprisingly, it would not
    have the same effect on large tech giants like Google to go after
    smaller prey. It is good that it is dead.