American Society of Magazine Editors

Patent Reform Halted in Senate; Likely Done for the Year

In a surprising development, and despite nearly a year of work, shortly before a scheduled Committee markup, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) pulled bipartisan patent reform legislation from the agenda, saying that there was “not sufficient support behind any comprehensive deal.”  Chairman Leahy laid blame on “competing companies on both sides of this issue” and put the effort on hold indefinitely.

The bill would have made it harder for patent holders to file frivolous lawsuits by adding provisions that would have, among other things, required the losers of the lawsuit to cover litigation costs for both sides. The House passed its version of patent reform legislation, the Innovation Act, with bipartisan support, at the end of 2013.

Chairman Leahy’s action, (which is partly attributed to the urging of Senate Majority Leader Reid) virtually guarantees that patent reform will not advance in the 114th Congress, a great disappointment to magazine media companies that have not been immune from the scourge of patent trolls. The outlook for patent reform next year will depend largely on the outcome of the November midterm elections, and whether ongoing state and judicial efforts to address the problem have any measurable effect on the issues.