Finally, a Bill to End Patent Trolling
|October 28, 2013||Posted by Staff under Campaigns|
This 2013 excerpt of ArsTechnica of Oct is by Joe Mullin.
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), has introduced a bill [PDF] that directly attacks the business model of “patent trolls.” The bill has a real chance at passing, with wide backing from leadership in both parties.
The proposal integrates most of the ideas from earlier patent reform bills introduced by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and John Cornyn (R-TX), as well as the SHIELD Act introduced by Reps. Pete DeFazio (D-OR) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). DeFazio and Chaffetz are co-sponsors, along with several other House members.
Lawyers from three groups that are deeply concerned about patent trolling had universal praise for the bill in a press call earlier today. (Those groups are the Computer and Communications Industry Association, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Public Knowledge.) It’s not perfect, but if passed, it’s a giant step forward that couldn’t have been foreseen even a year ago.
The bill would require patent holders to lay out details about their infringement case early in a lawsuit, and would require the loser of a patent suit to pay legal fees unless they could show that the case was “substantially justified.” It would expand a program to allow for the review of “business method” patents at the US Patent and Trademark Office, a key request by CCIA that has not been without controversy. And the bill would also allow customers or end users of a technology to stay a lawsuit while the patent holder and the manufacturer battle it out. That would prevent patent trolls from pulling moves like one last month, where a judge let Lodsys dodge Apple’s lawyers — while it continues to threaten iOS developers.
Still, it’s not a panacea. One thing reformers would like to see is some kind of defense against trolls that avoid filing actual lawsuits, instead sending out hundreds of demand letters to small or medium-sized businesses. But there’s a lot to work with.
This bill wouldn’t end patent trolling, but it could greatly increase the risks and costs to trolls. One type of troll that won’t easily be killed off is the kind that goes after dozens of smaller businesses. It will remain prohibitively expensive for many businesses to spend the $1 million or more it can cost to see out a patent lawsuit. Taking a case through trial often costs more than $2 million.
But opposition to some portions of the bill is already materializing. The Innovation Alliance, a group that includes heavy patent licensers like Dolby Labs, Qualcomm, Tessera, and InterDigital, has put out a statement opposing the bill, although it’s not opposed to every part.