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patent reform Tag

Today Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) hosted a Google Hangout with entrepreneurs who have first hand experience dealing with "patent trolls"---firms that come in and sue companies over "patent violations" that don't actually exist. The Hangout was part of a renewed push in the Senate to achieve meaningful patent reform. The PATENT Act is the latest in a long history of efforts to prevent patent trolls from shaking down small startups. The bipartisan bill would help protect innovators from the crippling pre-litigation costs (think discovery, which in patent cases takes anywhere from 3 to 5 years) that trolls use as leverage against startups that can more easily afford a payout than they can afford years of legal fees. Until very recently, patent trolling was an issue that mostly affected the technology and pharmaceutical industries; now, however, patent trolls are going after "main street"---think small business owners, startups, and independent inventors---and end users, meaning that people who simply use allegedly patented technology are being hit with bogus lawsuits. You can watch the Hangout here:

Last year, the push for patent reform hit a roadblock in Congress when then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to bring the Patent Abuse Reduction Act to the floor for a vote. In the war between industry advocates and trial lawyers, Reid chose the trial lawyers, and the patent trolls were off the hook. The new Republican majority is looking to break that pattern of obstruction. A new iteration of patent reform legislation is currently making its way through the Senate. A bill introduced on Wednesday would target firms that make their money not via innovation, but by filing bogus lawsuits against the innovators under the guise of protecting intellectual property. The bill, which is a product of negotiations between both parties, would place restrictions on "demand letters" sent by firms, end the practice of using shell corporations to hide who owns (or "owns") a patent, and shift the responsibility for paying court costs if the suit is not “objectively reasonable.” Patent reform is one of those unicorn-type issues that has bipartisan support, even if its backers sometimes disagree on the specifics.
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