Subscriber Discussion

Bill To Combat Patent Trolls Moving Through Congress

The U.S. House of Representatives just passed The Innovation Act which the bills sponsor Rep. Goodlatte, says should help take away some power from patent trolls. Some of the most significant changes from Gigaom:

  • Protection for customers: Right now, a troll can go after anyone using a router, a scanner or other basic technology it claims to own. The new law, however, allows the manufacturer of the technology — typically big companies like Cisco or Google — to step in and tangle with the troll. During this time, the troll’s lawsuits against the customer are halted (meaning an easy smash-and-grab is less possible).
  • Fee-shifting: A patent plaintiff will have to pay the defendant’s legal costs if they lose and if the lawsuit was “unreasonable.” That last part is not easy to establish, but the new rule will give second thoughts to some trolls, and will give some defendants an incentive to fight.
  • New discovery rules: right now, a troll can torment its victim with expensive discovery requests — requirements that the defendant produce emails, business records and other evidence. The troll, since it’s a shell company, doesn’t have anything to produce itself. The new rule moves the discovery phase down the road while a judge examines the patent claims, meaning that it’s harder for the troll to use discovery as blackmail weapon

All of the provisions can be found here.

Some people are hopeful that it will have an impact if passed into law. Others, are skeptical: One commenter on a patent-focused blog said, "... one of the reasons that the bill appears misguided is that it professes to answer the perceived patent troll issue, but none of the provisions are tailored to address this problem. Instead, this bill impacts all patent enforcement efforts, and even impacts alleged infringers (the victims of the so-called trolls)."

And Pando Daily points out five things that could have made the act more effective.

It will now move to the senate.