A lame move in Congress that only helps patent trolls


Apparently out of frustration that everyone in the innovation economy won’t come together on the issue, Sen. Patrick Leahy on Wednesday decided that a bill to cripple patent trolls won’t go forward (at least for now).

Measures in the bill included “fee-shifting,” which would require the losing party to pay the other side’s legal fees when there was no basis for the lawsuit in the first place. That could serve as a major deterrent to activity by trolls, whose frivolous patent infringement lawsuits cost US tech firms billions each year.

Yet while the tech industry longs to see a bill weakening the trolls, the pharmaceutical and biotech industry has opposed the effort.

The life sciences side itself hasn’t done much to explain itself, however. After a version of the patent reform bill passed the House in December (in overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion, in fact), the Biotechnology Industry Organization trade group (aka BIO) released a statement offering only vague reasons for opposing the effort. Provisions in the bill were “overly broad,” according to BIO, and would result in “too many unintended and unknowable consequences for innovators who rely on the patent system to fund and protect their inventions.”

Nothing offered about how this would specifically impact biotech innovation. Just a warning of “unknowable consequences.”

Not very convincing, especially when the bill could mean so much to the tech industry and the US economy overall.

But Sen. Leahy, it appears, doesn’t care to find out how severe the impacts of patent reform on biotech innovation would really be. If he did, then he could weigh those potential repercussions against the benefits of stopping the very real and undisputed impacts of troll activity on high-tech innovation.

Instead, he demands unity in the innovation economy before he makes a move.

It’s lame. And it only will embolden patent trolls to keep doing their thing.

What Congress ought to do now is to determine who is really the victim here, and take action accordingly.

Thoughts on the issue? We welcome your comments below or email us at editors@betaboston.com.

Image of troll via Shutterstock.

Kyle Alspach has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since 2005 and was one of the original staff writers at BetaBoston.
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