Big Pharma, Trial Lawyers, and Harry Reid Kill Patent Reform

Now that the smoke has cleared after the collapse of efforts to push patent litigation reform legislation through Congress, pundits are busy discussing just what happened. The President and members of both parties agreed that some reform was necessary. Reform legislation seemed to be a sure thing. Sources close to the negotiations on reform indicate that Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was the one who finally killed the bill.

Tech writer Joe Mullin, over at Ars Technica has this summary of what led to death of patent reform for 2014:

“This was entirely done by the pharmaceutical industry and the trial lawyers,” said one tech sector lobbyist.

Pharmaceutical and biotech firms are often plaintiffs in patent disputes and haven’t been hit hard by troll lawsuits. The bill was crafted in many ways to avoid treading on those industries’ interests, but the companies remained opposed to the bill.

Many law firms working in traditional plaintiffs’ areas like personal injury or securities class actions have added patent work as other sources have dried up. In Texas, there has been talk about how tort reform in that state had a hand in creating the patent litigation hotspots like the Eastern District of Texas, as lawyers went “from PI to IP.”

While this is disappointing, it should not be shocking. Our out-of-whack patent system breeds litigation, large awards and threatens innovations. Those who make money via the myriad lawsuits could not have been expected to go quietly into the night.

William J. Watkins, Jr. is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent books, Crossroads for Liberty, Reclaiming the American Revolution, and Patent Trolls.
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