The Senate may have just dealt a deathblow to patent reform

Senators delivered a potential deathblow to patent reform on Wednesday as the Judiciary Committee postponed work on the tech industry’s top legislative priority. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said weeks of negotiations on a compromise had reached a dead end and announced he was yanking the bill from the panel’s legislative agenda. “I have said all along that we needed broad bipartisan support to get a bill through the Senate,” Leahy said in a statement.

Patent reform seemed just around the corner. In December, the House of Representatives passed theInnovation Act act by a margin of 325 to 91. The bill, which would have made it harder to file spurious patent suits, had the blessing of President Barack Obama. All it needed was to pass the Senate. But on Wednesday, Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, announced on his website that he has taken the bill off the Senate Judiciary Committee. Large technology companies, and even some small businesses, have been plagued in recent years by patents suits brougth by “patent assertion entities,” better known as patent trolls. These companies own patents, which they’ve generally acquired from failed companies, but don’t make any products or offer any services themselves. They exist purely to sue other companies for patent infringement. The Innovation Act was a much anticipated piece of legislation aimed at stopping this behavior, and the bill’s death is a major step backwards for patent reform.

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