Tags: | patent | reform | left | Silicon Valley

WSJ: Silicon Valley Leaning to Right After Patent Law Failure

Monday, 03 Nov 2014 09:01 AM

Technology companies in Silicon Valley are angry at the government for its failure to enact patent reform and are tending to tilt to the right after years of leaning left, The Wall Street Journal reported.

In 2010, Democratic candidates across the country received 55 percent of their contributions from political action committees linked with tech firms. However, this year Republicans took a larger slice of the PAC pie, with 52 percent.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the string of tech companies with PACs giving more to Republicans than to Democrats include Google, Facebook and Amazon, the Journal noted.

For years, patent law has been a major thorn in the side of Silicon Valley, and the fact that Democrats failed to pass a new patent bill has left tech leaders disillusioned with the government.

"Patents make little sense for software, which almost always builds on earlier work," wrote the Journal's information age writer L. Gordon Crovitz. "There are some 250,000 potential patent violations in smartphones alone.

"Companies known as 'patent trolls' stockpile patents to extract huge settlements from technology companies, not to build products."

The tide appeared to turn when President Barack Obama was dubbed "the great slayer of patent trolls" by Wired magazine after he backed patent reform.

The House then passed a bipartisan bill that would have changed the law in favor of technology companies, which would have reduced the number of nuisance suits and the pressure on tech firms to settle.

But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, stunned Silicon Valley lobbyists by cancelling a Senate vote at the eleventh hour.

"I have said all along that we needed broad bipartisan support to get the bill through the Senate," Sen. Leahy said. "Regrettably, competing companies on both sides of this issue refused to come to agreement on how to achieve that goal."

His comments flew in the face of the fact that 500 high-tech firms had united to back patent reform, the Journal said. Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn blamed the sudden about-face on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

"The majority leader has allowed the demands of one special interest group to trump a bipartisan will in Congress and the overwhelming support of innovators and job creators," Cornyn said.

Leahy eventually admitted that Reid had instructed him to drop patent reform on the orders of a powerful contingent of trial lawyers, the Journal reported.

"I am furious with what happened," Leahy said at the time. "We worked so hard to get a coalition. Harry Reid and a couple of others said, 'We won't let it come to the floor.' I think that's wrong."

Trial lawyers have donated more to Reid's campaigns since 2009 than any other industry, according to the newspaper, which noted that his single largest contributor was major plaintiffs firm Weitz & Luxenberg.

"Silicon Valley should be delighted if Mr. Reid becomes minority leader, which would deprive him of the power to block votes," wrote Crovitz.

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Technology companies in Silicon Valley are angry at the government for its failure to enact patent reform and are tending to tilt to the right after years of leaning left, The Wall Street Journal reported.
patent, reform, left, Silicon Valley
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2014-01-03
Monday, 03 Nov 2014 09:01 AM
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