Business

Retail Groups to Congress: Don’t Let Patent Reform Fade

The push for patent reform has had its fits and starts in recent months as a bill meant to curb patent abuse crawls through the Senate, but advocates for reform are hoping to give the legislation another jumpstart.

It’s not at the finish line yet, but the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act of 2013 is close enough to being passed that advocates for the legislation want to encourage the Senate to keep its sights on the end goal.

That’s the message of a letter that members of the Main Street Patent Coalition sent this week to encourage Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and ranking member Charles Grassley (R-IA) to “approve meaningful patent reform now.”

“We believe that it is wholly possible to keep the U.S. patent system’s original intent intact while at the same time shielding businesses from abuses made possible by a lack of smart, modern day policies within that system,” the letter states [PDF].

The coalition represents a wide array of industries that could feel the impact of so-called patent trolls. It includes tech groups such as the Application Developers Alliance; retail groups including the National Grocers Association, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, and the National Retail Federation; financial groups such as the American Bankers Association and the Credit Union National Association; and associations that represent interests as diverse as marketing, hotels, printing, travel, and casinos.

The coalition launched in January, according to Politico.

Is Time Running Out?

Quite possibly. In recent weeks the bill has been held up in the Senate, with a few key sticking points preventing the Judiciary Committee from acting on it.

Reuters notes that a number of issues are behind the patent-reform delay, including the content of infringement lawsuits and the start time of the discovery process.

While the bill has a diverse array of supporters (as shown by the makeup of the Main Street Patent Coalition), opposition to it has remained quite strong, as well. The Innovation Alliance, a pro-patent group, has helped organize the opposition efforts in recent months, something highlighted by a letter it sent to the two Judiciary Committee leaders late last month.

“As it stands, many of the provisions assume that every patent holder is a patent troll,” the letter states. “Drafting legislation in this way seriously weakens the ability of every patent holder to enforce a patent. This approach clearly favors a business model that does not rely on patents and tilts the balance in favor of patent infringers, thereby discouraging investment in innovation.”

The letter was signed not just by trade groups such as the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) but also by more than 100 universities.

The two sides have little time left to find common ground on the outstanding issues: The Hill reported earlier this month that Senate Judiciary Committee member Charles Schumer (D-NY) said the bill would need to get through the committee by late May to have a chance of passage during the current session.

A House version of the bill, the Innovation Act, passed last year.

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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