Maine House passes patent troll bill

April 4, 2014

WESTBROOK, Maine (4/7/14)--Supported by strong lobbying efforts from the Maine Credit Union League, the Maine House of Representatives Friday passed legislation to protect credit unions from so-called patent trolls by a 105-28 vote.

The outcome of LD 1660, An Act Regarding Bad Faith Assertions of Patent Infringement, was put in doubt after the state Senate previously passed the majority report unanimously, but the House passed the bill with the minority report last week (Weekly Update April 4).

The league issued its final call to action after the House vote, urging those House members who voted in favor of the minority report to reconsider their votes. While the minority report contained the protections from bad-faith patent assertions sought by the league and credit unions, the measure would have likely been vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage and potentially not have sustained an override, the league said.

The difference between the reports was the inclusion of an exemption for pharmaceuticals in the majority report, an exemption that would have little or no impact in Maine but was nevertheless opposed by a number of House members. As a result, the league mobilized grassroots action by credit unions to communicate the importance of the legislation, and why passing the bill with the majority report was necessary.

League President John Murphy called the successful outcome "a team effort that was very important to credit unions. Patent trolls are a serious threat for Maine's credit unions with our current challenge alone already costing credit unions tens of thousands of dollars.

"We wouldn't have achieved success with the legislation without the outstanding efforts of our governmental affairs and lobbying team, the immediate and strong response from our member credit unions to their local legislators and the leadership of Sen. Anne Haskell (D-Portland and Westbrook) and other members of our state legislature," Murphy added.

LD 1660 has now been sent to back to the Senate and will go to the governor from there.

The Credit Union National Association and credit unions continue to work with lawmakers on both the state and national levels on patent reform. Effective protections for the end users of technologies like ATMs must be a part of any patent reform legislation enacted into law, CUNA wrote in a Thursday joint trade association letter to members of Congress (News Now April 4).

The letter was sent to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), ranking member Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and all other committee members in advance of Tuesday's expected markup of the CUNA-backed Patent Transparency and Improvements Act of 2013 (S. 1720).

Effective protections, the letter said, would include clarifying that depository institutions are included under the definition of "covered customer" as defined in the Federal Reserve Act.