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A Sad Day For Patent Reform. A Bad Day For Innovation.


Score one for the patent trolls.

It is beyond disappointing to write this, but the Senate Democratic Leadership today shelved the patent litigation reform legislation that could have dealt a major blow to patent trolls.

At Rackspace we have pushed hard for Congress to enact patent litigation reform. We have made it one of our core missions to battle patent trolls. To say we’re stunned by the Senate’s failure to act would be a gross understatement. As recently as last night, we had high hopes that a meaningful reform effort would move forward this week. Instead, we got the news today that the patent reform bill won’t be moving forward. We view this as a massive failure of leadership.

This is so disappointing because curbing patent trolls is not a partisan issue. The House bill that passed last December received broad, bipartisan support. It passed the House with an overwhelming 325-vote majority, including 130 Democrats, and earned public support from President Obama and the Republican committee chair. We were relying heavily on the Senate to be an ally against these parasites that make America less competitive every day.

Instead, this is the result of listening to a few select groups that live off of a broken system instead of listening to the thousands of individuals and companies across the entire American economy that actually produce value, jobs, and true innovation.

We don’t forget that there were many Senators who fought on the right side of this battle. Senators Cornyn and Schumer in particular both took leadership roles in championing patent reform.

The Innovation Act represented the first truly comprehensive piece of patent litigation reform legislation, and today’s move by the Senate can only be seen as a victory for the patent trolls that plague the industry with their vexatious lawsuits that amount to nothing more than extortion.

Patent trolls and their lawsuits are a scourge on nearly every type of business. In our industry, companies large and small are in the crosshairs of patent trolls and have turned to the Senate for relief.

While we’re saddened, we won’t stop. We’ll continue to work within all of our communities to push for sorely needed patent litigation reform and to take the power away from patent trolls. We encourage all of our customers, partners and friends to join us in hopes that next year we can get Congress to act.

Edit: May 22, 2014: We are not alone in seeing this as a major failure by the Senate Democratic leadership. Below are statements from groups throughout the economy that have been targeted by patent trolls:

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Van Lindberg.

Van Lindberg is a Vice President and Associate General Counsel for Rackspace, where he serves in both legal and technical roles.

As associate general counsel, Lindberg oversees the Intellectual Property program, directing Rackspace's strategy and policy around patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret and open source matters. He also heads Rackspace's patent reform lobbying efforts.

On the technical side, Lindberg co-chairs the company’s Technical Career Track program, or TCT, a leadership development program for the most highly skilled technical Rackers. He also does technical strategy and ecosystem engagement, identifying emerging technologies, separating out differentiating versus non-differentiating product elements and using open source strategies to be more competitive.

Previously, Lindberg worked for the international corporate law firm Haynes and Boone, LLP, where he wrote "Intellectual Property and Open Source,” and grew the firm's open source practice. He also did intellectual property transactional work, patent prosecution, litigation and post-grant actions (ex parte and inter partes reexams/reviews).

In 2012, the American Bar Association Journal named him one of "America's Top 12 Techiest Attorneys."

Lindberg currently serves as chairman of the board of the Python Software Foundation, sits on the board of the OpenStack Foundation, and was the first chair of the Docker Governance Advisory Board.

  • Bjorn T.

    People do not have horns, not even patent trolls. Not a fan of WWII style of dehumanizing people with “evil” caricatures.

  • Paul Morinville

    This particular patent reform effort would have wiped out patent rights
    for almost all independent inventors. Not so surprisingly, it would not
    have the same effect on large tech giants like Google to go after
    smaller prey. It is good that it is dead.

    • Greg Taylor

      Software shouldn’t be patentable to begin with. It wasn’t until an unfortunate Supreme court ruling many years ago.

      • Paul Morinville

        If that is the goal, then get that legislation passed. But don’t pass legislation that wipes out patent right for all small invevtors but not large multinationals.

        When you eliminate patents for software, think about all of the industries that will be harmed… home appliances, cars, watches, signs. Energy (especially green)… the list goes on.

  • Lee Blaylock

    Leahy is lying to the public. The votes are fully there in committee, it’s just that they were more Republican than Democratic. Harry Reid didn’t want a “Republican” bill to pass in a Democratic Senate. Very disappointing that this was so close and died for political reasons. The battle continues… If you live in Vermont or UT, make sure your voice is heard loud and clear. The tech industry is more important to innovation than the trial bar.

  • Eric Brooke

    If the US cannot get innovation management right, innovators will look to other places

  • pointsnfigures

    Blame the Trial Lawyers. They didn’t want the economics to change.

  • Roger Ellman

    The news is indeed sad and disappointing. However your persistence is not, it is encouraging and I support you.

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