New bill could neutralise patent trolls

A new bill aimed at tackling patent trolls has received bipartisan support in Congress and could be the best chance yet of reforming the patent system.

The Innovation Act, sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte [R-Va], is a comprehensive six-part bill that aims to neutralise and stop “patent assertion entities”, as patent trolls are official known, from operating in the way they do.

The first clause the act requires is “heightened pleading”, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that means patent rights holders must provide minute details when the lawsuit is filed as well as stating why they are suing.

The second part states that whichever side loses out in the case must pay the opposing side’s legal costs and any fees incurred during the case, also known as “fee shifting”.

“Transparency”, the third point, requires the patent holder to demonstrate which parties would actually benefit from the litigation. It also states that if the plaintiff is a shell-company patent troll the defendant can request the real party in interest joins the case and then force it to pay up if the patent troll won’t or can’t.

Its fourth clause allows manufacturers to protect customers from getting sued that use technology invented using patents owned by patent trolls. The following part is entitled “discovery reform” and aims to stop the expensive and sometimes harassing discovery that takes place before the court has interpreted the patent. This makes it simpler for defendants to abandon frivolous cases before legal fees and costs start to mount up.

Lastly the “post-grant review” clause makes it easier to challenge the validity of a patent at the Patent Office and lets the director of the Patent Office waive fees when any case is filed and look closer at patents passed before reforms.

Patent trolls have become the scourge of many industries with technology one of the main sectors affected. Organisations known as patent trolls stockpile large numbers of patents not to use in business but to file lawsuits against companies that infringe upon them in the hope of gaining significant remuneration.