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Washington
'Patent trolls' in the crosshairs at state, federal levels
WASHINGTON (3/28/14)--"Patent trolls," those who manipulate the patent system for their own gain, continue to be in the legislative crosshairs on both the state and federal levels, as the Credit Union National Association and state credit union leagues work to protect credit unions from their menacing practices.
 
On Thursday, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee, confirmed at a Senate Executive Business Meeting that patent reform remains on his very near-term agenda. CUNA expects the committee to vote on the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act of 2013 (S. 1720) before Congress breaks for a Spring District Work session on April 11.
 
Without actually inventing anything or adding to innovation, patent trolls buy up patents in order to extract fees--or legal settlements--from other companies that may use that technology. Small companies like credit unions find themselves between a rock and a hard place: paying what amounts to extorted fees may be cheaper than fighting the trolls.
 
Leahy noted in his Thursday statement that members of his committee have been working on the issue for "the better part of the year," including a December hearing in which John Dwyer, president/CEO of New England FCU, Williston, Vt., testified on CUNA's behalf.
 
Dwyer described how his credit union became the target of a patent troll demand letter and is in the middle of expensive discovery in a patent infringement case related to 23 ATMs it provides for members.

Most recently on the state level, the Wisconsin State Assembly approved a patent troll bill this week. Like bills in six other states, Wisconsin's SB 498 now awaits the governor's signature to become law.
 
There have been similar bills in an additional 14 states, only two of which have died in committee.
 
CUNA and many state credit union leagues continue to heavily advocate for patent reforms on Capitol Hill and in state legislative offices.


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