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Leahy blames Reid -- and trial lawyers -- for failure of patent reform bill

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Jul 10, 2014

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy is blaming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for the failure of his patent reform bill.

Leahy, the sponsor of the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act, removed the bill from the Senate Judiciary Committee's calendar in May.

In an interview with the Burlington Free Press, the Vermont senator said Reid, D-Nev., basically forced his hand.

"I am furious with what happened," Leahy told the newspaper. "We worked so hard to get a coalition. Harry Reid and a couple of others said, 'We won't let it come to the floor.'

"I think that's wrong, but I'm not going to give up."

Reid reportedly has strong ties to trial lawyers, and they were concerned about a fee-shifting provision of the bill that would require the loser to pay the winner's legal fees.

Neither the American Association for Justice -- the world's largest trial bar -- nor Reid could immediately be reached for comment.

Leahy wasn't the only one to pin the blame on Reid, though the only Democrat.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas and who introduced his own Patent Abuse Reduction Act last year, noted that everyone else was on board, including the White House and House Democrats.

There was even bipartisan support in the Senate, Cornyn pointed out.

"It's disappointing the Majority Leader has allowed the demands of one special interest group to trump a bipartisan will in Congress and the overwhelming support of innovators and job creators," he said in a statement after Leahy shelved the bill in May.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa and ranking member of the judiciary committee, also hinted at Reid's involvement.

"I am surprised and disappointed that the Senate Democrat leadership is not willing to move forward on a bill that we've worked on so hard and were ready and expecting to mark up tomorrow," Grassley said in a statement in May.

"We put in a good faith effort to get to this point, and it's too bad that the bill is being pulled from the agenda."

Trial lawyers weren't the only ones to oppose the bill; the bio-pharmaceutical industry and universities also had issues with the legislation.

"We have been working for almost a year with countless stakeholders on legislation to address the problem of patent trolls who are misusing the patent system. This is a real problem facing businesses in Vermont and across the country," Leahy said in May.

"Unfortunately, there has been no agreement on how to combat the scourge of patent trolls on our economy without burdening the companies and universities who rely on the patent system every day to protect their inventions."

He continued, "We have heard repeated concerns that the House-passed bill went beyond the scope of addressing patent trolls, and would have severe unintended consequences on legitimate patent holders who employ thousands of Americans."

Still, Leahy said a bill won't pass until there is support from both sides of the issue.

"If the stakeholders are able to reach a more targeted agreement that focuses on the problem of patent trolls, there will be a path for passage this year and I will bring it immediately to the committee," he said.

He said he hopes lawmakers are able to return to the issue this year.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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