Is This Our Last Chance For Patent Reform?


Over the last few years I have written about how badly we need patent reform more times than I care to recall. Here I am in September 2011, upon passage of the America Invents Act, stating that it "wholly fails to address many of the biggest problems plaguing the patent system, especially the problem of patent trolls." Or last year, when I called on the tech community to “strike while the iron is hot” to get patent reform done. I’ve explained time and again how the system doesn’t work and why we need to fix it, and I have been joined by so many other leaders in the tech community: founders, investors, and policymakers.

Many of us have been watching Capitol Hill closely since August 2012 when Reps. Peter DeFazio and Jason Chaffetz introduced the first SHIELD Act, the first bill to take on the troll problem. Since then, the President has compared the patent troll business model to extortion and called for reform in his most recent State of the Union address; the House passed the Innovation Act, which the White House publicly supported; the Federal Trade Commission has said it will undertake an in-depth investigation into the patent troll business model; and 42 states’ attorneys general have called for legislative reform.

Every day that goes by without reform costs our economy money. Annually, that number stretches into the billions. And every day, startups are targeted with spurious claims of infringement, requiring that they shift their focus away from growing their businesses.

So why haven’t we passed patent reform yet?

The answer depends on who you ask. Some blame Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, who, under Chairman Patrick Leahy, hold the power to make it happen. (Sen. Leahy is responsible for deciding what bills the committee votes on, and up until now, no comprehensive patent reform bill has made it to a vote.) Others claim that certain provisions -- like fee shifting -- have made a deal impossible.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter. The Senate goes on recess after this week, and then we’re into the summer when things in D.C. notoriously slow down. And after Labor Day, congressional members will be distracted with the November midterm elections. All this adds up to a short window to get this done. We have been waiting long enough. The pieces are all in place. The time for patent reform is now.

Want to help? Go to and call your senators today. Let them know that you’re watching, that you care, and that you expect them to finish the job and pass patent reform.