November 19, 2013 | By Julie Samuels

The Latest on Patent Reform: Targeting Demand Letters, Finally

We owe you an update on patent reform. Things are moving quickly!

Here are the basics:

First, the Innovation Act continues to move forward. The most recent version, however, lacks an important provision that would expand an effective avenue to challenge a patent's validity at the Patent Office. While we still support the remaining package, we are disppointed about the loss of the bill's only piece dealing with patent quality. The Innovation Act heads to markup tomorrow (you can watch here and we'll be live tweeting at @EFFLive).

Second, yesterday Sen. Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced a bill in the Senate called the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act. This bill is a pretty good one, but is more limited in scope than the Innovation Act. That said, it does at least one thing better: it squarely addresses the demand letter problem. Specifically, the bill would outlaw some of the worst letter-sending practices, like making false threats or making threats that lack a reasonable basis in fact or law.

This joins another bill being introduced today by Reps. Polis (D-Colo.), Marino (R-Pa.), and Deutch (D-Fla.), the Demand Letter Transparency Act. In addition to likewise outlawing similar letter-sending practices, the Demand Letter Transparency Act does would require any party who sends more than 20 demand letters in a year to disclose certain information to the Patent Office—such as who is really behind the letters and more information on the patent. It would also create a publicly available demand letter database (something we're obviously in favor of—check out Trolling Effects).

This movement on the demand-letter front is big news for those who favor comprehensive patent reform that would really help small businesses, innovators, and end-users who face patent threats.

Please join us here in calling on Congress to pass the necessary reforms to get patent trolls out of the way of innovation.

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