We’re so close to passing patent reform.
The House recently passed the Innovation Act, a bill to stop patent trolls—whose abusive litigation has exploded in recent years, putting a drain on our innovation economy and harming innocent end users. The bill passed with a huge, bipartisan 325-91 vote.
Now it’s time for the Senate to step up. The most prominent legislation is S. 1720, the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act. Let’s make it a stronger bill.
Patent trolls buy up patents and use them offensively against unsuspecting businesses—without creating or selling anything themselves. Making broad claims of infringement based on patents of questionable validity is the troll’s favorite move. Most defendants choose to settle because patent litigation is risky and expensive—and trolls offer settlement amounts that, although still incredibly burdensome, are far cheaper than a lawsuit. Businesses who are targeted—including cafés running Wi-Fi, app developers, offices using scanners, and podcasters—lose both time and money, and innovation suffers.
Here’s what we want:
- Patent Quality: Broad and vague patents are the underlying problem. We need reforms, like expanding patent review methods and limiting functional claiming, to prevent these patents from existing in the first place.
- Heightened Pleading: The bill should require patent holders to provide basic details (such as which patents and claims are at issue, as well as what products allegedly infringe and how) when it files a lawsuit.
- Fee shifting: The bill should allow for a court to require the loser in a patent case to pay the winning side’s fees and costs. This makes it harder for trolls to use the extraordinary expense of patent litigation to force a settlement.
- Transparency: The bill should include strong language requiring patent trolls to reveal the parties that would actually benefit from the litigation. Also, if the plaintiff is a shell-company patent troll, the defendant could require the real party in interest to join the litigation, forcing them to pay up if the patent troll can’t or won’t pay.
- Staying customer suits: The bill should require courts to stay patent litigation against customers (such as a café using an off-the-shelf router to provide Wi-Fi) when there is parallel litigation against the manufacturer.
- Discovery reform: The bill shuts down expensive and often harassing discovery until the court has interpreted the patent, making it easier for defendants to dispose of frivolous cases early before the legal fees and court costs really add up.
- Demand letter crackdown: The bill should curb the widespread, deceptive sending of demand letters by patent trolls.
Help us stop patent trolls from gaming the system. Send a message to your senator asking them to support strong patent reform.