Government Support for Fighting Patent Trolls Grows

BY Ali Sternburg
May 2, 2013

Lawmakers have been speaking out about the patent troll epidemic in recent weeks and now it looks like they’re ready to do something about it.

Yesterday Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that he is introducing a bill to expand the covered business methods program established by the 2011 America Invents Act, so that broad, abstract patents can be invalidated more promptly, telling TechCrunch “if you have a legitimate case it will go forward in a month.”

Last week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) issued a statement for World IP Day, saying that he intends to propose legislation to reduce the patent troll problem:

There is more Congress can do to improve the patent system and address the problem of patent trolling, by increasing transparency and accountability.  I intend to work in a bipartisan and bicameral manner on legislation that will ensure the real party in interest of a patent is disclosed, protect unknowing and innocent purchasers of allegedly infringing products from unwarranted suits, and continue to improve patent quality, and we will explore other means to make trolling activity unprofitable.

President Barack Obama, in his February Google Hangout, and House Judiciary Chairman Goodlatte (R-VA), in announcing a March hearing, also spoke about the harm patent trolls inflict on the U.S. economy:

Obama: The folks that you’re talking about are a classic example; they don’t actually produce anything themselves. They’re just trying to essentially leverage and hijack somebody else’s idea and see if they can extort some money out of them.

Goodlatte: Abusive patent litigation and specifically patent trolls have a significant impact on American competitiveness, costing our economy billions of dollars each year.  Tomorrow’s hearing will allow us to examine the landmark America Invents Act and determine how best to further protect American inventions and promote innovation by discouraging frivolous patent litigation.

Congress needs to address the problems of too many opaque, low-quality patents being granted, and then being used as weapons in litigation, particularly by trolls and patent assertion entities who are not actually making products or selling services.  CCIA continues to support fixes such as the SHIELD Act, and looks forward to hearing more proposals from the other Congressmen.

The Judiciary Committee has a lot on its plate (as its jurisdiction also includes immigration and guns), but patent trolls are clearly harming the economy, and CCIA is encouraged that there is a growing consensus in the government that it is a problem — a problem that they intend to fix.

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