updated 02:24 pm EST, Thu December 5, 2013
Bill aims to reduce frivolous litigation
The US House of Representatives has passed a bipartisan bill that aims to reduce negative impact from the practice derisively known as patent trolling. Passing by a wide margin of 323 to 89, Rep. Bob Goodlatte's (R-VA) Innovation Act (PDF) focuses on a range of litigation reforms to help protect businesses against frivolous patent-infringement lawsuits.
The bill would require plaintiffs to provide essential details about their lawsuit, enabling defendants to quickly learn which products will be challenged and the specific patent claims that are being asserted. It would make it easier for a court to shift legal fees, requiring a plaintiff to pay a company's legal fees if the infringement claims are rejected. Plaintiffs would also be restricted from abusing discovery requests for excessive numbers of documents, which also increases a company's cost of defending itself in court.
"[The Innovation Act] gives defendants tools to fight back, makes ligitation cheaper and includes an important fee-shifting provision, so companies that stand up to the trolls have a chance to recover their fees and costs at the end of litigation," the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote in a blog post.
Despite its enthusiasm for the Innovation Act, the EFF voices concern that "it doesn't go nearly far enough" to address other lingering issues. The organization calls for additional reforms at the US Patent and Trademark Office to avoid granting or validating patents that "aren't particularly inventive," along with more regulation over demand letters that threaten lawsuits but are not required to include specific information regarding alleged infringement.
"Today's vote makes clear that policymakers understand that patent trolls impose an unacceptable tax on innovation and that their conduct, which often amounts to little more than run-of-the mill extortion, must be stopped," The EFF added.
The Innovation Act now heads to the Senate for another vote before becoming law.