Snowball Effect: Patent Discussions Gain Momentum in the Senate

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

I was honored to testify in the Senate Judiciary Committee today in support of Senators Leahy and Lee’s “Patent Transparency and Improvements Act,” as well as legislation from Senators Hatch, Cornyn, and Grassley.  Senator Leahy kicked off today’s hearing by mentioning the snowfall in Vermont. Luckily, the snow didn’t reach DC, and my second opportunity to testify in front of Congress wasn’t disrupted by the snow like my last testimony.

Listening to the testimony of fellow witnesses on the panel and the Senators on the Judiciary Committee, I was struck by four things:

  • The hearing was extremely well attended, with 15 Senators present, underscoring the seriousness of the problem.
  • There was unanimous support from witnesses for halting the behavior of patent trolls that unjustly attack real innovators in the United States. Like many of Adobe’s customers, patent trolls are targeting end users and small businesses with meritless law suits in search of a quick settlement and payout. As this problem grows exponentially, Congress must act quickly to stop this behavior.
  • There was wide agreement, such as from Philip Johnson, the Chief Intellectual Property Counsel of Johnson & Johnson and representative for the Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform, that fee shifting is the most appropriate way to balance the needs of the legitimate patent holders and disrupt the troll model, and that there is a need to reach the real party in interest to make fee shifting effective.
  • Finally, I was gratified that all witnesses spoke out in favor of balanced solutions to the troll problem.  Adobe has been both a plaintiff and defendant in patent litigation, and our interest is in promoting a targeted fix that addresses a serious but ultimately narrow imbalance in one particular flavor of civil litigation around patents.

I recognize that there are varying viewpoints about how best to remedy the nearly $29 Billion cost patent trolls inflict on our innovation economy.  However, as I’ve written in prior posts, the legislation crafted by Senators Leahy and Lee is great start on patent reform.  However, to provide a comprehensive solution, Leahy-Lee needs to be coupled with other measures, particularly Senator Cornyn and Grassley’s legislation, which addresses heightened pleading and discovery reform, and Senator Hatch’s legislation, which provides discretionary bonding.

I look forward to the next step in moving this effort forward. I also look forward to a relaxing winter break. Happy Holidays everyone!

Dana Rao, Adobe's Vice President for Intellectual Property and Litigation, providing testimony at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this morning.

Providing testimony at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this morning.

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