Over the past few months, patent trolls, frivolous litigation, non-practicing entities and patent reform have regularly been in the news. Unfortunately, the news and speculation will continue, as legislators are finding it challenging to come up with a solution. For now, nothing will change, but stay tuned.
Following a series of postponements, proposed legislation on patent trolls was shelved on May 21, 2014 when the Senate Judiciary Committee removed the bill from its agenda. The Patent Transparency and Improvements Act, introduced on November 18, 2013 by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was intended to discourage the accumulation of dormant patents and limit frivolous infringement suits by patent trolls. The House of Representatives passed a similar bill back in December by an overwhelming and bi-partisan majority. The main issue involved “fee shifting” provisions, such as one provision requiring the patent plaintiff to pay the winning party’s attorneys’ fees. While this may keep patent trolls from bringing frivolous litigation, it may also limit companies’ abilities to rightfully protect their own patents.
Lobbying for and against the bill was strong. Companies like Google supported the enactment of the bill arguing that patent trolls and their frivolous litigation burden the economy and companies that rely on the protections of the patent system. On the other side, companies in the biotech industry and university associations vigorously opposed the bill believing it would substantially weaken all patents and the rights of all patent holders. Senator Leahy stated that the opponents and proponents of the bill could not come to an agreement without “burdening the companies and universities who rely on the patent system every day to protect their inventions.”
This will not be the end of patent troll legislation and more news stories will be written. Since President Obama signed the America Invents Act bill into law in 2011, patent litigation and legislation has soared. Over ten patent bills have been introduced during this Congressional session alone. Since entities on both sides of the patent spectrum remain frustrated, the conversations, news and debates will continue.