(Adds background on dispute, sticking points, byline)
By Diane Bartz
WASHINGTON May 21 Senator Patrick Leahy,
chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, said on
Wednesday a controversial patent bill backed by major technology
companies was being taken off the committee's agenda for now.
The committee had been attempting to reach agreement on
changes to a bill aimed at reducing patent litigation brought by
patent assertion entities, often called "patent trolls" by their
critics. The measure is similar to legislation passed
overwhelmingly by the House of Representatives in December.
"Because there is not sufficient support behind any
comprehensive deal, I am taking the patent bill off the Senate
Judiciary Committee agenda," Leahy said in a statement.
"If the stakeholders are able to reach a more targeted
agreement that focuses on the problem of patent trolls, there
will be a path for passage this year and I will bring it
immediately to the committee," Leahy said.
The bill has strong support from companies such as Google
Inc and Cisco Systems Inc, as well as
retailers that have been surprised to find themselves accused of
patent infringement for such practices as using off-the-shelf
routers to provide Wi-Fi to customers.
But it also has critics who worry that efforts to rein in
truly abusive, unwarranted patent infringement lawsuits could
inadvertently hurt drug companies, colleges and others seeking
to protect intellectual property from those who would steal it.
Leahy did not say he was giving up on the bill, and noted
that he still sought to "address the problem of patent trolls
who are misusing the patent system."
"Unfortunately, there has been no agreement on how to combat
the scourge of patent trolls on our economy without burdening
the companies and universities who rely on the patent system
every day to protect their inventions," he said. "Regrettably,
competing companies on both sides of this issue refused to come
to agreement on how to achieve that goal."
The bills in the Senate and House contemplated changes such
as making it easier for judges to require the loser of an
infringement lawsuit pay the winner's fees, and allowing a
manufacturer to step in to defend a customer accused of
(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Ros Krasny and Bill