The Senate Steps Up (on Patent Reform)

Posted by Dana Rao, Vice President of Intellectual Property and Litigation

I wrote a couple weeks ago about the patent troll problem, and how we were seeing bipartisan action in the House of Representatives centered on the Innovation Act, Chairman Goodlatte’s comprehensive bill on patent reform.  I’m happy to report that we are seeing great momentum in the House, with a markup/committee vote taking place on the Act later today in the Judiciary Committee.  After the Judiciary markup, next stop for the Act is a vote of the full House, later this year or early 2014. For those Schoolhouse Rock fans out there, you know this is the first important step in a long process to have this bill become a law.

To that end, I’m pleased to report that the Senate has been just as active, and the work of a number of offices is now bearing fruit as introduced legislation.  Adobe supports the bills introduced by Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Lee (R-UT), as well as separate bills from Sens. Hatch (R-UT) and Cornyn (R-TX).

Each of these bills tackles different aspects of the troll problem.  The Leahy bill provides some important safeguards to ensure software developers like Adobe are able to limit the effects of abusive patent litigation filed against our customers.  Both the Hatch and Cornyn bills provide for fee shifting.  Allowing the prevailing party to collect fees will deter meritless patent lawsuits, as the plaintiffs will face a financial consequence if they lose.  The Hatch bill adds a critical element to the fee-shifting proposal by providing a discretionary bond that will ensure those shifted fees will actually get paid by someone.  The Hatch legislation also safeguards the rights of individual inventors and entrepreneurs by giving the court the option to impose the bond, and providing guidance to the court that certain entities (non-trolls, individual inventors, universities) should not be required to post bonds.

Taken together, these Senate bills amount to a comprehensive plan to address the troll problem.  They include critical measures on fee shifting, demand letters, customer stay, real party in interest, and many other positive elements.

We are thankful to Chairman Leahy and his staff for his commitment to solving the patent litigation abuse problem, and for moving legislation forward.  We are especially grateful to two hometown-hero Senators who have more than a thousand Adobe employees in their state—Senators Hatch and Lee.  Adobe looks forward to working with these three Senators, along with Senators Cornyn and Schumer, as the process moves forward.

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